Inspiring Excellence in the Classroom and Beyond

posted: Monday, May 1, 2017

St. John's-Ravenscourt School is pleased to announce that Senior School teacher Sarah Olshewski was awarded the Outstanding New Teacher Award from the University of Manitoba on Friday, April 28, 2017 at the Manitoba Excellence in Education Awards. Ms. Olshewski epitomizes every one of SJR’s Vision, Mission and Values. She is a teacher that the students look up to and respect; her commitment to teaching and instilling a love of learning is why she was chosen for this prestigious award.

The Awards have been hosted by the University of Manitoba since 2006, and are a way to recognize outstanding educators whose stimulating educational practices have a profound impact on student learning and engagement.
Ms. Olshewski joined the SJR team in 2015 as a Senior School science teacher, and her impact on the students was almost immediate. The culture in her classroom encourages learning, and students receive the message that although the work may be challenging, they are capable of achieving great things if they are prepared to work hard.

All nominees to the category of Outstanding New Teacher must have had a maximum of two years teaching experience and distinguish themselves by their enthusiasm, their dynamism and their ability to inspire students and colleagues.

Ms. Olshewski possesses those traits and more. Aidan, a Grade 11 student, was thrilled to write a recommendation letter from a student’s perspective, and believes her to be “one of the most innovative teachers a student could ever possibly have.”

Classroom interactions between herself and her students are highly respectful, reflecting genuine warmth, caring and sensitivity to students as individuals. All of Ms. Olshewski students exhibit respect and civility among all members of the class. The net result is an environment where all students feel valued and are comfortable taking intellectual risks. There is a shared belief about the importance of learning between students and herself.

Ms. Linda Bulka, Senior School Principal notes that Ms. Olshewski "goes above and beyond to ensure that students and their families understand how each student is performing. Materials are tailored to individual student and family needs. She is quite skilled in the use of questioning and discussion techniques challenging students to examine their premises, to build a logical argument, and to critique the arguments of others.”

Her passion for teaching is noticeable. Not only does she want her students to succeed in her courses, but it is very important to her that she provides them with tools they can take forward into university. Noticing that students often have a tough transition from high school to university, she spends a lot of time focusing on metacognition. “I ask my students to reflect on their work (which is kept in a journal) and to constantly think about the way they study and what study strategies they use. As I tell my students, I, too, struggled in my first year of university, so I make sure to provide my students with the strategies I used that helped me find success. I find that being open with my students about not only the successes in my life, but also about the times where I struggled, creates a welcoming and comfort¬ing classroom atmosphere.”

Grade 11 student Aidan noted in his reference letter that “each class with Ms. O runs incredibly smoothly, and is planned meticulously with interactivity and real-world examples that bring the concepts she teaches into the forefront of the student’s mind. I actually find myself relating the subject matter of class to everyday activities even during the weekend.”