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Teacher and KPU alum receives premier’s award for social justice leadership

By Richmond Sentinel

Published 12:17 PST, Wed November 22, 2023

A Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) alum is being recognized for shining the spotlight on social justice issues in the high school classroom and beyond.

The B.C. Premier's Awards for Excellence in Education has honoured Michael Taylor in the category of Social Equity and Diversity.

"Social justice issues are deeply important to me as an educator because they impact the quality of people's lives and are fundamental to answering questions about the kind society we want to create," says Taylor, who graduated with a bachelor of arts from KPU in 2011. "Issues like poverty, homelessness, truth and reconciliation, LGBTQ+ rights, ecological justice, and human rights touch so many lives and will continue to define our future. Students inherently see the relevance of these issues and recognize the connection to their own lives."

Taylor, who teaches social studies at Hugh Boyd Secondary in Richmond, accepted the award at a ceremony Oct. 26 in Victoria. The annual awards recognize the dedication and leadership of teachers, administrators, and support staff working in B.C.'s educational system.

In creating a social justice course that emphasizes not just academic knowledge but also hands-on engagement with the community, Taylor is motivating students to make positive change. A recent example: leading students to raise funds to supply each school in the Richmond district with an Every Child Matters flag as a meaningful symbol of reconciliation.

"Understanding the difficult truth and the grave injustice of the residential school system instills a sense of empathy and justice in students and allows them to reflect upon how they can play a role in reconciliation today. Teaching reconciliation to me is about teaching students to take action is positive ways that will improve the circumstances of those impacted most by the legacy of residential schools," he says.

Taylor's students have participated in other projects that reach outside the classroom, including creating a magazine and podcast that feature student articles and interviews on equity and justice issues. His students have also participated in various service learning projects, such as handing out 500 flowers at a seniors centre to raise awareness of social isolation and loneliness among the elderly, and creating an award to acknowledge the moral courage and community spirit of outstanding grades 4 to 7 girls.

The Premier's Awards for Excellence in Education presented awards to three recipients in each of 10 categories. Also recognized in the Social Equity and Diversity category were teachers Perry Rath (Bulkley Valley) and Kristina Carley (Burnaby).

Nominees of the award must have provided experiential learning opportunities for students to build understanding of a diverse society, developed a sense of social responsibility in students, engaged students beyond the classroom on complex social or environmental issues, and supported students to take action that results in positive change.

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