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TDSB Teachers Win Prime Minister's Awards for Teaching Excellence 2021

Friday, December 10, 2021
Categories: Great Things

Allenby JPS teacher Andrea Payne and William Lyon Mackenzie CI teacher Cindy Law-Fong are two of twelve teachers across Canada to be recognized with the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence and Prime Minister's Awards for Teaching Excellence in STEM this year.

Since 1994, the Prime Minister's Awards for Teaching Excellence have honoured exceptional educators in Canadian elementary and secondary schools. The TDSB has been fortunate to have a number of past winners over the years, and this year’s winners were recognized at our Board Meeting on Wednesday, December 8, 2021.

Andrea Payne - Prime Minister's Awards for Teaching Excellence


Andrea Payne


Andrea has been a teacher in the TDSB and at Allenby JPS over the last sixteen years. Andrea connects experts in the community to bring real-world knowledge into the classroom and her commitment goes far beyond curriculum. She uses design thinking in the classroom - the cognitive, strategic and practical processes by which design concepts are developed - to identify real world issues and work through the process to develop, prototype, and test their solutions. Her lessons are student-centred and inclusive. At the beginning of the pandemic, Andrea created a weekly virtual learning schedule that combined class learning with student-led independent studies and small group work. Her learn-from-home approach was empowering, inclusive, and helped minimize feelings of isolation that so many children were experiencing. The outcome is that her students' learning is optimized, and that the sense of community is not only maintained but flourishes. Andrea models respect and caring in her actions and methods give all students an equal opportunity to succeed.

Cindy Law-Fong - Prime Minister's Awards for Teaching Excellence in STEM

Cindy Law-Fong

Cindy’s teaching philosophy relies heavily on collaborative learning, self-directed inquiry activities and the use of assessments and evaluations that require students to think critically about the natural world. One of Cindy’s greatest strengths when designing lessons is allowing for students to discover scientific concepts independently, as opposed to traditional teacher-led instruction. Cindy’s inspiration and motivation to have students pursue scientific challenges has resulted in numerous successful achievements in the ExploraVision – a competition designed to engage students through the solving of real-world issues using STEM-based solutions. Cindy has implemented ExploraVision directly into her Grade 10 Academic Science curriculum and in 2020-2021, students won first place in this national competition. Cindy’s innovative teaching methods, from preparing effective resources, to creating interactive learning experiences, to incorporating authentic STEM opportunities into the curriculum, continually fosters an educational environment geared towards collaboration and genuine scientific inquiry.

The TDSB also had three recipients recognized with Certificates of Achievement.


Kathleen Patricia Graham, Elementary teacher at The Elms JMS

Kathleen Graham


Kathleen’s credo is simple, “You have to meet the students where they are”. The core of her beliefs is that each student has a unique voice that needs to be expressed and celebrated. Technology is a rich and powerful tool to unlock that voice. One of Kathleen’s many strengths is her ability to foster learning through the use of the most current digital tools. Kathleen continues to change the lives of many students with special needs through the remarkable support and care that she brings, based on attention to the individual and their unique circumstances.


William Yu, Elementary teacher at North Agincourt JPS

Bill You


“Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” Theodore Roosevelt’s quote has been Bill Yu’s mantra for his passionate teaching practice over the past 16 years. Bill has had a great effect locally, nationally and internationally over the course of his career. At the school level, he has founded over six award-winning teams in different sports, and had CFL players visit and send inspirational messages for students. At the board level, he has trained teachers on integrating robotics with physical education and organized city championships. Nationally, he has written over 12 educational graphic novels. Internationally, he ran a sports program at an orphanage in Mexico during the summer and raised money to help build a computer lab for a school in Nicaragua.


Rania Zaki, Elementary teacher at Cottingham JPS


Rania Zaki


Rania’s approach is based on tapping the creative powers of her students, on encouraging them to take initiative and develop their leadership skills. Rania supports her students with a wide range of resources. She delivers original learning programs and proposes innovative projects that spark joy and curiosity in her classroom. And she has a unique ability to use digital technologies to foster creativity and improve student learning and outcomes. Cultural differences and inclusiveness are always celebrated in Rania’s classroom. She brings an awareness of societal issues to her students, for example by reading topical articles and books, and discussing issues around accessibility and integration.