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'Fantastic' Burnaby teacher, SOGI lead wins BC teaching award for diversity

University Highlands Elementary School Grade 2 teacher Kristina Carley won a Premier’s Award for Excellence in Education this week.

The Grade 2 teacher behind the Burnaby school district's first gender and sexuality alliance diversity club at an elementary school has won a provincial teaching award.

Kristina Carley, who teaches at University Highlands Elementary School, was among 34 educators from around the province to earn a Premier’s Award for Excellence in Education.

Carley’s award was in the category of social equity and diversity.

“I think what’s really significant and impactful about the work that Kristina does is she’s been willing to take risks,” said Burnaby school district learning lead Bryan Gidinski, who nominated Carley. “She was responsible for creating and facilitating our first elementary-based GSA diversity club, which culminated in the installation of our first rainbow walkway at an elementary school.”

Carley is also University Highlands’ sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) lead and the founder and president of B-Outside, a local environmental education provincial specialist association.

She was also pivotal in University Highlands earning the distinction of being the first school in B.C. to be designated as a Fair Trade School, according to the school district.

“Ms. Carley is fantastic,” said University Highlands parent advisory council co-chair Julia Lane, whose son was in Carley’s class last year. “She creates such an environment of growth and community for the kids.”

Lane told the NOW her son had said Carley “really gets to know the kids.”

Lane said Carley also does a great job communicating with parents through a regular blog about what’s going on in her classroom.

Launched in 2018, the Premier’s Awards for Excellence in Education honour public, independent and First Nations school teachers, support staff, principals, vice-principals, as well as school and district leaders, who go above and beyond to make life better for kindergarten-to-Grade-12 students.

The award recipients were celebrated at a ceremony at Government House in Victoria on Thursday.

Each received a $2,000 personal bursary for professional learning, a $1,000 contribution to their school for professional learning and a commemorative trophy.

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor