Bahá’í wins national honour for teaching excellence

An innovative online learning resource and an enthusiasm for sharing knowledge has earned a Gander, Newfoundland, teacher the Prime Minister’s Certificate of Achievement.

Grade 5 teacher and long-time Bahá’í Jim Cornish accepted the honour in a ceremony held on 11 January 2007 at the Gander Academy, where he teaches. In attendance were fellow teachers, school administrators, the Gander mayor, the local Member of Canadian Parliament, and almost 400 students.

Cornish won the award in part for a website that provides resources on and links to information on dozens of subjects covered in elementary school curricula. Among the subjects are astronomy, the environment, geography, math, science, literature, and health.

The website was a novel initiative when Cornish first started it in the mid-1990s, just as the internet was taking off. By 1998, his project had caught the attention of a U.S.-based educational publishing company, which invited Cornish to be a feature writer for its newsletter. Since then, the site has grown in popularity among teachers and students, as has the demand for Cornish’s expertise in technology-based learning.

But the teaching award went to Cornish as much for his personal qualities as a teacher as for his technological expertise. Aside from his readiness to freely share his resources with others, Cornish is known around the school for eliciting the best from his students and for not giving up on students who have not understood a concept.

He says his exposure to the Bahá’í Faith has helped him develop these qualities. He recalls a conversation he had with a Bahá’í friend about performing work in a spirit of service.

“She made the comment,” he says, “that rather than doing something for someone because of the reward you stand to gain, you do it so that the person you help will someday help someone else.”

The Bahá’í Faith upholds education as one of the noblest pursuits. Bahá’u’lláh stated, “Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom.”1

The Prime Minister’s awards are given to educators nationwide. Fifteen Certificates of Excellence were awarded this year, with Certificates of Achievements going out to the next 50 top-ranked nominees. According to the website of Industry Canada, which oversees the nomination process, the award recognizes “outstanding educators in all disciplines at both the elementary and secondary levels who better equip their students with the skills needed to meet the challenges of a 21st century society and economy.”

The award comes with a $1000 prize, which Cornish will put towards a laptop computer that teachers at his school can use for multi-media instruction.

Click here to visit the biographical page about Jim Cornish on the Industry Canada website.

Click here to visit the website resource for which Cornish in part won the teaching award.