Andreya Padmore Transcript

Julia Richards, Canada’s History

Welcome to another episode of Teaching Canada’s History Podcast. I’m your host Julia Richards and in this special educator’s series, we’re speaking with the finalists for the 2022 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching. Created 26 years ago in 1996, the award recognizes best practices in teaching Canadian history and is an opportunity to highlight the important work that teachers and students are doing to interpret and share the stories of the past. I’m sitting down with Andreya Padmore. Well why don't we start by introducing yourself, you could tell us a little bit about your school or the classroom?

Andreya Padmore

Sure, um, so my name's Andreya Padmore, and I'm an elementary teacher with the Toronto District School Board. So, I specialize in teaching students from kindergarten to Grade 3. And I really place a heavy stance on representation in everything that I do. So that is ensuring that the learning materials and whatever is brought into the classroom represent the many identities and cultures that we see in our world and especially within like my school and my community. 

Um, I noticed the importance of representation in schools from such a young age. And I may not even be like a teacher right now, um, if it wasn't for my first Black teacher, Ms. Sullivan. Because as a child I just subconsciously never thought of teaching as a profession for me. So therefore, my goal as an educator, um, is to try my best for students and families to feel seen heard and valued, um, in our schools and especially within the classrooms. And I believe that involving the community the families and the many identities around us is a great way to reach that goal.

And so, for the students I work with, so I work at Orde Street Public School, and it's located right in downtown Toronto. And we serve such a fantastic loving and caring community. What I love most about our school is that we serve families from literally all around the world. Because our school is located — it's kind of like in the middle of a bunch of hospitals — um, a lot of the families from all over the world come in and do their internships within the hospitals and they stay for two years and then they go back home to their home countries. So, this provides a great opportunity to share Canada with so many people and families. As well as learn about the different cultures and countries around Canada as well. So yeah, it's a unique situation there it's great.

Julia Richards, Canada’s History

Do you want to tell us about your project?

Andreya Padmore

Yeah, for sure. Um, ok. So, during this project the students learned, um, about the current events and also the historical facts in Canada that make us proud um, such as our diverse and inclusive culture, acceptance of race, families, and cultural identities. All of the artists that come out of Canada and the inventions and inventors. Um, but also students learned about the things that took Canada some time to recognize and accept responsibility for like the events that happened in the community of Africville, the installment of the residential schools, and what happened to activists like Viola Desmond. Um, so it's important to learn about — it's important for the students to learn about Canada's past and present so that the students realize the opportunities that Canada presents which is that anyone no matter their age gender or race has opportunity and the right as well as a responsibility to make a positive impact on society. So that they can create um a world that — a future that they would like um, that's better for all.

And also, students went into this project, I noticed with questions and interests about what happened in Canada but now after the project's over, they're leaving with even more questions and knowledge and steps to take action on creating a better future for Canada. Um, this project involves a lot of mini lessons all leading up to one final culminating task of publishing a book of racialized Canadian trailblazers. 

Um, and I'll just go over just 2 of the mini lessons — because they're I guess the highlights of the whole thing — so we talked a lot about the Dish with One Spoon Treaty. And so when we talked about that, students learned about who the Indigenous people are, their customs, beliefs, values, and in order for them to truly understand the meaning and importance behind a treaty, um, we use lots of picture books, we use the National Film Board of Canada, um, documentaries, and also resources from the amazing Toronto District School Board, um, the Indigenous Education Centre, um, to help guide our learning.

So, students understanding of the historical content came when they crafted our own land acknowledgement. And what was cool about that is um, it was shared with the entire school, um, after it was finished. So, we talked a lot about that, the Dish with One Spoon Treaty, and we also talked a lot about, um, the civil rights movement and the impact it had specifically for the rights of the 2SLGBTQ+ communities and the Black communities. 

So, one example is we really went in deep with Ontario's passing of the Racial Discrimination Act, which happened in 1944. And we also discussed as a group how else we feel welcomed in Canada. We talked about the different families that Canada welcomes and celebrates through parades, celebrations, and lines, and we got to know each other better by discussing what pronouns um, we'd like to be called. And we created pronoun buttons to — not only for our class but for the whole school community — for whoever would like to use them.

And then lastly with our culminating project, which was a published book, called Change Makers: Trailblazers of Canada, students showed their historical understanding of all the different mini lessons that we did by selecting a Canadian — a racialized Canadian trailblazer or inventor to research and create a biography on. Um, and throughout this process it was cool because students were overheard sharing their new knowledge of what they're learning with each other. Um, so for example, a Grade 2 student said, “oh did you know that Raymond Moriyama designed the Science Centre I went there on a field trip in kindergarten!” and then another student was like a Grade 1 student said, “oh my person who made the California roll lived in Japan and then moved to where I used to live in Vancouver.” So, the culminating task really started lots of conversations about the different parts of Canada and raised awareness of students using their talents to help others and they also saw themselves in um, what they were doing — in their research so it was a great project that really loved it.

Julia Richards, Canada’s History

It sounds like it was so impactful for these students. 

Andreya Padmore

And for me.

Julia Richards, Canada’s History

Um, what inspired you to develop this project?

Andreya Padmore

Yeah, so what's even better about this project is that it really did come from the students. Um, the students inspired me and guided this whole entire project. So, um Canada is so multicultural and so are the students in my classroom — as I explained before about how they come from all the different countries — so Canada's history impacted all of our cultural and social identities.

So, as we learned at the beginning of the year, as we learned about ourselves and each other, we learned about our identities, we simultaneously researched the role Canada played on both presently and also historically on the various parts of our identities. So, such as our ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation. Those are just some of the things we talked about. And uh, yeah, it was so cool because it was really just — a student would come in one day and be like “oh um, can we research more about um the history of Black people — Black women in Canada and what happened to them?” And so, then we went with it, and we researched that. Um, and then even in and it went all year, so even with Pride they want to learn more about Pride and all of that. So yeah, it was such a fantastic thing, but it was totally student lead.

Julia Richards, Canada’s History

So, what do you think is the greatest impact of your project?

Andreya Padmore

Well, I always think of like the goal. So, like, the goal of this project is — was to empower the students to see themselves as trailblazers of their own greatness even at the young ages of 8, 9, and 10. Um, and at the end of this, looking back at this project I believe that it exceeded its goal. Um, it empowered the students and allowed them to take charge of their own learning by understanding Canada and all the opportunities Canada has to offer.

By learning about Canada’s mishaps and our reactions to them, that was the main point, um, the students were able to see that everyone makes mistakes, right? And — but it's okay to recognize them — and to recognize them and also, it's what's really important is how we react to them, so that we can move towards a better future. And so now students I see even after the project when they see injustices or anything around them, they don't just say “oh, I don't like that” they're like, “I don't like that” and then they start already forming actions on how they can fix it or how they can raise awareness around it so that it could change. So um, yeah, so the greatest impact I would say would be um, giving students the opportunity to share their voice.

Julia Richards, Canada’s History

So that's uh — such an incredible outcome and such valuable skills for these students to have too. 

Andreya Padmore

For such young ones, eh? Like, I just love it. It's great.

Julia Richards, Canada’s History

Yeah! So how do you keep your students engaged in history or how do you make it relevant for them?

Andreya Padmore

Yeah, I think really just involving them like history is us, right? So really centring the students, um getting the families involved. I find as you learn more about people, um you learn about their histories, right? And that really — especially with this young age they love talking about themselves, they love learning more about themselves, and their cultures and everything so as long as you involve that that would keep them engaged um for sure. And they love learning about other people, and they love helping So, that's what this project really did it involved everything; it involved themselves, it involved their peers, and it involved the world um all around them, basically. So, they were super engaged.

Julia Richards, Canada’s History

So yeah, it sounds like — it sounds like they're really fascinated by this whole project.

Andreya Padmore

Yeah, it was really cool and then they saw their book in the library I should do uh a plug here, it was um, Student Treasures. If you're a teacher out there, um, they to have a fantastic program, um, they let you they design free books um for your class. So that's a great program — Student Treasures.