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Maureen Kelly-Gibson: Exceptional learning opportunities for struggling students

Year: 2020 — Province: Alberta
Certificate of Excellence Recipient

Calgary Academy
All subjects, grades 2 to 4 and 7
Calgary, Alberta

I get emotional when I think of where [my son] would have been without Maureen. [He] is a confident young man who treats people well and has positive, loving relationships. He volunteers in his community and is a strong contributor to society. Our family owes that to Maureen.


Maureen Kelly-Gibson leads the way in adopting new approaches to learning at her K–12 special education private school. Students with learning disabilities who are struggling to learn in the regular public system—and are often two or three grade levels behind—thrive as a result of this veteran teacher's care and commitment.

Teaching approach

Maureen ensures each student knows they are special and valued in the learning community. She gently coaxes and guides her students to create the best work they can, and to be the best people possible. The relationships she builds with her students and colleagues are at the centre of everything she does.

In the classroom

  • Explores design-thinking cycle to meet learning outcomes: young students developed and created scale models of a natural learning space, using green screens to record themselves explaining each element of the space while superimposed on their model; project benefited students who struggle with written output.
  • Introduced talking circles to support student development by building cooperative and communications skills: students speak about social issues or community concerns in a safe, respectful environment, starting with closed questions and then moving on to open ones as their confidence develops.
  • Provides opportunities for deep learning on a single topic: Grade 7s studied the prime minister's 2008 apology to Indigenous peoples, created a mosaic about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 calls to action, and raised money to buy flags indicating that the school sits on traditional Indigenous land.
  • Inspired by school's partnership with university math education researchers, introduced intermediate-level concepts of perimeter, direction, timing and geography to students in grades 1 and 2 using programmable LEGO robots; Grade 4s worked with the younger students on robotic solutions to improving river health.

Outstanding achievements

  • Led a group of administrators and teachers to design and implement new learning model for school—taking the best from the academy's 40-year history and incorporating progressive thinking in pedagogy and assessment that has wellness, belonging, relationships and self-awareness at its core.
  • Pioneered creation of school's social skills program, and added mindfulness practices to her classroom: students develop the capacity to manage difficult and challenging circumstances and develop resilience.
  • Was instrumental in creating school's new Kindergarten program, designing it around play-based learning to set the foundation for success in school and with best practices from across the country and an effective assessment tool to meet the province's high standards for new programs.
  • Mentored numerous teachers using the "I do. We do. You do." approach that allows teachers to watch her teach, then progress to a collaborative process, and then, when they are ready, take over, with Maureen providing feedback.

Get in touch!

Calgary Academy
1677 93rd Street SW
Calgary AB  T3H 0R3

Twitter: @CalgaryAcademy, @MaureenKellyGi1
Facebook: @wearecalgaryacademy

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