A former Kwantlen Polytechnic University graduate received the “Social Equity and Diversity” award at the B.C. Premier’s Awards for Excellence in Education held in Victoria, B.C. at the end of October, which recognizes the contributions of the province’s teachers, administrators, and support staff.
Michael Taylor is a high school teacher at Hugh Boyd Secondary School in Richmond and teaches social studies in addition to a social justice course he created. He was recognized for developing this course, which allows students to learn more about their community and gain experience outside of the classroom.
“We try to get kids in the community working on some sort of project, either within the school or the greater community that connects them with the social issues we are learning about,” Taylor says.
“[My students] love current events and we go into the history of topics to understand them better in the present, but it’s pretty powerful stuff that they are really engaged in … at the Grade 11 and 12 level.”
Coming home from work one day, Taylor received an email that he had won the award.
“I was nominated without knowing, and it’s such a cool, rewarding thing to receive recognition,” he says. “It is driven by the work of my students and all the support staff at my school. It is a pretty special experience to be acknowledged in that way for doing the course that I am passionate about.”
As a child, Taylor enjoyed talking to people in his community and building connections.
“When I am able to see kids connect with something beyond themselves, … that is the most rewarding experience because … they can see that they can actually make a difference,” he says.
This teaching approach also helps students understand social issues through hands-on opportunities that help build their confidence by speaking to adults and experts in the community, he adds.
Taylor and his students visited a seniors’ home and handed out 500 flowers to seniors who live there. This came about after Taylor researched that seniors have been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and have become more isolated than ever.
“We wanted to raise awareness to the fact that the centre exists and it’s a really great place for seniors to connect with others. … CTV News came out and filmed us. We had a lot of fun music and tried to lift everyone’s spirits,” he says.
“The kids got outside of their comfort zones and … they get enlivened by these service projects that show them they can take action, not just hear about an issue, but get involved and see the results of their actions.”
Taylor brainstorms with his students on issues or topics they want to address in the community. The next project he wants to tackle in the course is about climate change and how students can take action as he feels there is a deficit in the curriculum about this topic.
Taylor also has a podcast, called Social Justice Voices, where students from his class interview experts about a range of topics. The episodes vary in length and are available to listen for free.
“These topics shape society and they really matter to young people. It is an outstanding course because it engages kids in politics and social issues and how to actually create change,” he says.
To learn more about the social justice course and to listen to Taylor’s podcast, visit https://socialjusticevoices.com/.