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Asa Schoonderbeek wins Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence

10/14/2014 07:01 EDT | Updated 12/14/2014 05:59 EST
A GTA teacher, who dresses up as a superhero to encourage young boys to read, is one of 35 recipients of the Prime Minister's Awards for Teaching Excellence.

Asa Schoonderbeek teaches Grade 1 at Williamsburg Public School in Whitby, Ont.

"I think that the greatest thing for teachers to be able to do is engage their students ... when you walk into Asa’s classroom that’s what you see. You see kids engaged," says principal Peter Creer​.

"Parents request Asa Schoondenbeek every year because of the engaging activities that he does and the care and support that he provides for the kids."

This year, Schoondenbeek started a lunch hour boys' reading club for the school's Grade 1 and 2 students. He spends his lunch hours dressing up as a superhero and reading to the boys choosing to spend their time with him in the library rather than outside for recess.

One little boy told CBC News that the program is fun because "you get to read and you get to pick any book we want to read." He was holding a copy of a Captain Underpants book, which is a favourite series of his.

Programs like that make him a winner in parents' eyes.

Schoondenbeek has taught two of Heather Middleton's three daughters, and she suggested nominating the teacher for the award to the school's community council.

"He really is the epitome of that memorable teacher that kids are going to remember as having an influence on their lives as they move forward in their education," she says, explaining how he helped one of her kids overcome her shyness and anxiety.

Schoondenbeek created a bucket list for her to encourage her class participation. The little girl was so excited by the system that the "shyness kind of faded away," she says.

Middleton hopes her third daughter will have the privilege of being Schoondenbeek's student too.

Schoondenbeek says he was blown away by the award. For him, it was just an honour to be nominated in the first place. He doesn't think he's doing anything special — just doing his best so that all of his students can succeed.

When he found out the award came with a $1,000 cash prize he reinvested it back into his students, buying three iPads for his classroom.

He does want to be that memorable teacher that Middleton talks about.

"I want kids when they’re 30 and 40 and when I’m long retired coming up to me and saying, ‘Oh Mr. S, do you remember when you did this?'"

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