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Heather Faris: forming independent learners for life

Year: 2019 — Province: Saskatchewan
Certificate of Achievement Recipient

Heather Faris

Science 9, Health Science 20, Biology 30
Miller Comprehensive Catholic High School, Regina, Saskatchewan

"[Heather] is the reason I [became] a science educator. She has been a mentor to me in more ways than I can count …. I model my teaching after her, striving to incorporate her sense for inquiry, creativity, fun and a pure love of learning in my classroom. "
— Former student and new teacher

Heather Faris mixes everyday life lessons and skills with curriculum content to ensure students have what they need for success in school and life. Her pet snake, Ruby June, sometimes comes along to class to help out, and Heather has been known to show her love learning by holding a tarantula.

Teaching approach

Heather uses personal stories, hands-on exemplars, engaging demonstrations, relevant videos and interesting questions to make learning meaningful, while giving each student the chance to reach learning goals independently, using their own knowledge base and problem-solving skills.

In the classroom

  • Constructs "out of the box" lessons featuring hands-on, learning opportunities: students are challenged to create a pendulum that swings once a second, determining the necessary mass, string length and drop height, and recording their observations of the impact of these variables.
  • Involves her students in real-life research: a group did data collection and analysis related to pesticide use on a university campus to assess the bio-diversity of areas treated with and without pesticides through insect counts, soil and turf analysis; the university ended up banning pesticides.
  • Supports students' independent research: Grade 12 biology students choose their own topic for a major study project; one approached Heather about setting up a partnership with the provincial museum so he could reconstruct a coyote skeleton to show the evolution of the species.

Outstanding achievements

  • Transformed an area of gravel and concrete into the school's garden, complete with a productive vegetable patch, perennials, including those native to Saskatchewan, and an area for raspberry bushes and strawberry plants; student garden club secured large grant for further improvements.
  • Founding member of the Centre for Research in Youth, Science Teaching and Learning, whose goal was to create and share innovative and reliable teaching strategies as well as activity-centred and inquiry-based lessons with other teachers.
  • Recruited by the Ministry of Education to be a member of the team helping implement the new provincial Grade 11 Health Science and Grade 12 Biology curricula.
  • Recognized by the Canadian Association for Teacher Education for the contribution of her master's thesis on inquiry-based learning to research on student exploration and learning.

Get in touch!

Miller Comprehensive Catholic High School
1027 College Avenue
Regina SK S4P 1A7

Twitter: @millerCHS

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