École Lacombe Composite High School (ELCHS) teacher Steven Schultz has received national recognition for his decade-and-a-half of dedication to innovative programming and student success.
The recipients of the 2019 Prime Minister's Awards for Teaching Excellence and Teaching Excellence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) were announced in Ottawa May 21, and Schultz was among the 17 across the country selected. In the announcement, it was stated that Schultz is a great listener, who finds the positive in any situation, “encouraging students, regardless of ability, race or gender, to pursue their passions and strengths. Inspired by multiple intelligences theory, he uses project-based learning strategies to help students gain confidence and improve performance.”
Schultz was nominated for the prestigious award by Lacombe community members, spearheaded by Lacombe Mayor Grant Creasey.
“It was a total surprise and humility,” said Schultz of the nomination, adding he was shocked when he got the call to say he’d been selected as a recipient.
“Immediately I had flashbacks of all the successes that my students have accomplished and deep pride for their accomplishments being recognized,” he said. “Almost 100 per cent. This award is shared by the hundreds of students who have participated in my programs.”
ELCHS principal Valerie Yaremchuk said the school is proud of Schultz's accomplishments and what he brings to the school.
"We are really proud of Steve and believe it is long over due. He does great work here among the teachers and with the students and the whole community," said Yaremchuk.
Schultz started a robotics program at ELCHS 15 years ago. That program has evolved and many environmental and agricultural programs followed over the years. From building a tropical greenhouse, establishing a two-acre garden and launching a composting program — all which allow students to develop leadership, communication and innovation skills not possible in the classroom.
Schultz pioneered a robotics team for young people to learn programming, design, mechanics and electronics skills, which has led to considerable interest in STEM subjects in central Alberta. He has integrated technology in the classroom to enhance learning and student success, including using Netflix and YouTube videos to help students sustain a beekeeping course over the winter, when students can't access the hives set up at ELCHS. A focus on other cultures has also been developed through international trips, where students learned about recycling, biodiversity and Indigenous culture in Costa Rica, and developed lesson plans in Kenya.
“You can offer the best programs in the world, but if students don’t buy in, especially programs like I run which are voluntary, extra-curricular, outside the box, outside the curriculum,” said Schultz. “We have a winning formula for students and student success at ELCHS. That is to find what a student’s strengths are, allow them to dream, provide the resources for the dream and then you walk through every step of that process, teaching them what it is like to solve real-life problems. And, then you celebrate your successes.”
Schultz said the formula attracts other students back into the program.
“It also makes those students that have built the project confident, positive leaders, resilient … and they are able to solve real life problems,” said Schultz. “We have always set our sights on things that seem to be impossible.”
On the horizon, Schultz and his students aim to launch animal husbandry, day-to-day care and raising of livestock using goats. The program will incorporate gardens planted on re-purposed sea containers and utilize solar panels for energy.
Schultz officially receives the Prime Minister's Awards for Teaching Excellence May 28 in a ceremony with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa.