April 15th, 2024

Southview teacher defies odds; nominated for excellence award

By James Tubb on March 26, 2024.

NEWS PHOTO BRENDAN MILLER First-year teacher Tanisha Preston poses for a photo in her Southview School classroom. Preston is this year’s Medicine Hat Public School Division nominee for the Edwin Parr Award.

Brendan Miller

Tanisha Preston says she could have never imagined being the Medicine Hat Public School Division’s nominee for the Edwin Parr Award for firstyear teachers, after growing up in poverty and being raised in a house of drug use.

Preston grew up near Bonnyville and often was on the receiving end of racist and prejudice remarks from her fellow classmates.

She said her teachers weren’t as educated with how to deal with the complexity of a child who comes from an Indigenous background while also being the granddaughter of a residential school survivor.

“I remember as a child in the shower, trying to wash the brown off my skin because it wasn’t good,” explains Preston.

But she says she is grateful for her rough childhood as it fuelled her motivation to become her families first high school graduate.

“I am this resilient person that’s not letting my past traumas impact me,” says Preston. “And in fact, I’m changing other students lives. I’m a better mother for my child, I’m seeking out my culture for my child.

“I don’t want her to grow up the way I did feeling like we are ashamed of being Indigenous.”

Preston started welding after graduation and moved to Medicine Hat for a job. During this time she was an educational assistant for a teacher at Dr. Ken Sauer School who motivated her to start a career as an educator.

“The teacher I was working under was just so inspirational and she told me how she sees so many qualities of a good teacher (in me) and how I should go and pursue education,” says Preston.

Following that advice Preston graduated post-secondary and is now homeroom teacher at Southview School for a split class of Grade 4 and 5 students and is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of her students.

“I had a student come up to me the other day, telling me that she never wanted to come to school last year,” explains Preston. “And now she comes to school with a smile on her face early.

“She says that I have made learning fun for her. And it’s those moments that you don’t expect to hear but you realize you’re making a difference.”

Preston’s colleges say she possesses a gift by authentically connecting with her students and taking time to listen to what’s going on in their day.

“What I see in Tanisha is that she cares for all her students equally,” says principal Dave Ridgedale. “She helps them when they need that help, but at the same time, is firm at setting her boundaries.”

Ridgedale is impressed by Preston’s commitment to learning and professional job development.

“One of the things we see in Tanisha was just how reflective she is in her practice, always wanting to improve and her willingness to go out and ask for help.”

Preston is the division’s nominee for the Zone 6 Edwin Parr Award that annually honours six first-year educators across the province who teach elementary or high school.

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