Karen Kennedy-Allin: caring for students so that they care

Transcription – Karen Kennedy-Allin, Prime Minister's Award recipient

[Black screen fades up to a white background, with the following words appearing, line by line: Prime Minister's Awards. Music playing. Transition to a white and grey screen with medium shot of woman, smiling, on the left side of the screen, with the following words appearing, line by line, on the right and voice over: Karen Kennedy-Allin, Weyburn Comprehensive School, Weyburn, Saskatchewan.]

[Fade to black and then to photos, with voice over. Photos: Karen posing behind a computer; four students with paper signs and Karen pointing to one that reads "NADPH"; Karen looking at a computer screen with two students; Karen teaching in front of the classroom; Karen surrounded by students holding up paper signs with words such as "sunlight," "Chlorophyll" and "C02" written on them; Karen standing in the centre of a half-circle of seated students demonstrating a concept with small weights suspended with string; A large group of students in a wooded areas with Karen pointing to a tree with a long stick; Karen in a wooded area, smiling with a long stick over her shoulder and a clipboard in her hand, with a group of four students in the background; a close up of Karen teaching in front of the class; a close up of Karen in a wooded area, smiling with a long stick over her shoulder and a clipboard in her hand.]

Karen Kennedy-Allin's primary directive is that students will not care until they know you care. She shows she cares by adapting her teaching to meet student needs. Students can review video lessons at their own pace. She even produced 10 original video lessons for students to do at home. This leaves physics class time free for inquiry-based activities, like launching marshmallows with catapults. She uses both high-tech gear and whiteboards in her class. Her merry-go-round problem-solving exercise sees students make a circuit of eight whiteboard stations, tackling a new problem at each stop.

[Fade to black and then up white and grey screen with medium shot of woman, smiling, on the left side of the screen, with the following words appearing, line by line, on the right: Karen Kennedy-Allin, Weyburn Comprehensive School, Weyburn, Saskatchewan. Voice over: Karen Kennedy-Allin.]

[Fade to white, with the Government of Canada FIP and then the Canada Wordmark appearing in black.]

Year: 2019 – Province: Saskatchewan

Certificate of Excellence Recipient

Karen Kennedy-Allin

Physics 30, Biology 30 and Environmental Science 20
Weyburn Comprehensive School, Weyburn, Saskatchewan

"Mrs. Allin to us was more than just a teacher. She is a true inspiration of an extraordinary human being. … [She] never gave up on [our son]. She pushed him above and beyond his limits and expectations and occasionally pushed us as well."  — Parents of former student

Even after 25-plus years of teaching, Karen Kennedy-Allin works tirelessly to improve her classes, being of the view that every semester is an opportunity for growth and change. As president of the regional teacher's association, she also supports teachers from across grade levels and disciplines.

Teaching approach

Karen's primary directive is that students will not care until they know you care. She ensures that the students who need the biggest challenges to stay engaged get them, and that those who can only handle smaller ones get what they need. All the while, she strives to give young adults independence.

In the classroom

  • Adapts to various learning styles: students review video lessons at their own pace; she makes class notes available, since some students don't benefit from taking them; produced 10 video lessons for students to do at home so physics class time is free for inquiry-based activities.
  • Emphasizes formative evaluation to student understanding prior to formal assessments; these techniques (e.g. open book assignments, short quizzes) give students feedback so they can improve; students work in groups to discuss practise test answers.
  • Uses both high-tech gear (e.g. probeware and online simulators) and whiteboards: groups of students prepare quick summaries of concepts on the latter to share with the class; merry-go-round problem solving sees students make a circuit of eight stations, each with a problem to solve.
  • Stresses importance of hands-on projects to prompt innovative thinking and learning through trial and error: students launch marshmallows with catapults they have designed, gather data on trajectory, and two days later must be able hit a target in three tries.

Outstanding achievements

  • Conducts student survey at the end of every semester and strives to take into account the constructive feedback the results contain to improve her courses for the next semester.
  • Created school's health and anatomy symposium: students create displays with information on the structure and function of a human organ and how to keep it healthy; the event features interactive learning activities, and parents, the media and the public are invited to attend.
  • Wrote the new Physics 30 curriculum with three other Saskatchewan educators; creates lessons and projects for senior science classes that are shared with all teachers in the province.
  • Received Canadian Association of Physicists Award of teaching excellence in 2017.
Transcription – Karen Kennedy-Allin - 2019 Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence

[Black screen fades up to close-up of woman in interview setting against a white background. Music playing.]

"The number one factor that contributes to a student's success really is the relationship that they have with the teacher."

[Fade to black and then up to white screen with medium shot of woman, smiling, on the right side of the screen, with the following words appearing, line by line, on the left: Karen Kennedy-Allin, Weyburn Comprehensive School, Weyburn, Saskatchewan. Fade to black and then up to close-up of Karen in interview setting.]

"The innovation and best practices that I'm really proud of are my hands-on projects that I've started to incorporate …"

[Cut to photos, with voice over. Photos: Karen looking at a computer screen with two students; Karen and two students looking at one student's work; Karen surrounded by students holding up paper signs with words such as "sunlight," "Chlorophyll" and "C02" written on them; close-up of Karen behind podium making a point during her presentation to fellow recipients on best practices in her classroom; long shot of Karen during her presentation, with a fellow recipient holding up a large sheet of paper illustrating the concept she is describing; Karen smiling during a fellow recipient's presentation; Karen with Paul Thompson, Associate Deputy Minister, Innovation, Science and Economic Development, having received her Prime Minister's Awards pin; Karen with fellow recipients of the Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence on Parliament Hill.]

"And, I say, 'started to incorporate' because I never feel like I'm done. I always try to incorporate as much hands-on activity as I can. I know after this week, after these four days, I'm going back with more motivation, more determination to turn my classroom to the way that I want it."

[Cut back close-up of Kean in the interview setting.]

"Let your students know that you care about them. Make sure that if you're a teacher that you love the kids that you're teaching. If you're just there for the job, it's going to be a lot harder on you and a lot harder on the students."

[Cut to photos, with voice over. Photos: A large group of students in a wooded areas with Karen pointing to a tree with a long stick; four students with paper signs and Karen pointing to one that reads "NADPH"; Karen standing in the centre of a half-circle of seated students demonstrating a concept with small weights suspended with string; Karen in a wooded area, smiling with a long stick over her shoulder and a clipboard in her hand, with a group of four students in the background.]

"When you learn to love them and all of their flaws and all of their difficulties, and you just embrace it and go with, it makes the job so much easier …

[Cut back to Karen in the interview setting.]

"… and so much more fulfilling."

[Fade to black and then back to Karen in the interview setting.]

"The message I would like to send my students—and all of my students, past and present—is that they're the reason I do what I do. They're the reason why I want to get better every semester and every class. I truly do love them … from the bottom of my heart, every single one of them. And, I hope that they see success in their life and that when they think back to being in my class, they remember some of the activities and some of the learning, yes, but most importantly I hope they remember that I cared about them."

[Fade to black, with the Government of Canada FIP and then the Canada Wordmark appearing in white.]

Get in touch!

Weyburn Comprehensive School
629 King Street
Weyburn SK S4H 2S5
306-842-7494
contact.wchs@secpsd.ca
https://www.secpsd.ca/school/wcs/Pages/default.aspx

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