Dorothy Grant

The stuff of dreams

I had the privilege this morning to meet Canada’s outstanding elementary and secondary school teachers.  27 of our nation’s best educators were in Ottawa as recipients of the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence and for Excellence in Early Childhood Education.  Their visit coincided with World Teachers’ Day which is held annually on October 5th.

Dorothy Grant

The teachers spent today participating in professional development workshops.  In the first workshop, I spoke about the impact that grade school teachers had on my career ambitions.  As a child I was fortunate to have had several teachers who taught well and inspired me.  I owe these remarkable people a debt of gratitude.  In fact I have made an effort to stay in touch with several of them throughout my life.

As a graduate of the Canadian public school system, it is no surprise to me to learn that our provinces are doing a great job educating Canada’s future leaders (  But we can always do better.  During my health research and space exploration careers, I have observed that interdisciplinary collaboration is the typical setting for the most innovative endeavours.  Therefore I encourage educational initiatives that engage large numbers of students across a variety of curricula.

Let me tell you about one educational initiative that did just that.  Earlier this year, the students of Lord Beaverbrook High School in Calgary wrote a children’s e-book entitled From Blue to Red.  The book is about a fictional mission to Mars and was written, illustrated and composed by the Lord Beaverbrook students.  The high school students wrote the book for Alberta’s elementary school children.

The e-book project was quite innovative since it involved the collaboration of hundreds of students, teachers and mentors from literature, language, physics, chemistry, biology, music and graphic arts.  Diana Krall and I narrated the English version of the book while Julie Payette and David Saint-Jacques (my astronaut colleagues) narrated the French version.  I encourage you to view the book to see what students who are learning at the frontiers of education can accomplish.  (Heads up:  you’ll need the most up-to-date web browser to view the e-book online.)  The students of Lord Beaverbrook also produced a cool documentary that explains why and how the book was made.

Robert Thirsk - Grade 3

My careers in health research and space began with a dream.  But dreams do not come true by wishing on a star.  Dreams are built upon an educational foundation.  I’m pleased that our Prime Minister honours exceptional school teachers and gives visibility to our provincial educational systems.  Teaching is a noble profession that nurtures the career dreams of young Canadians and bolsters our socio-economic base.  It was an honour for me to spend a morning with the best of these professionals.

Question:  Did you have a particular teacher in grade school who made a significant impact on the direction of your educational or career path?

October 5, 2012


Photo 1 : Bob with Mrs. Dorothy Grant on the left (his grade 5 teacher from North Surrey, BC) and Mrs. Shirley Cole on the right (his grade 2 & 3 teacher from Powell River, BC).

Photo 2 : Grade three student Robert Thirsk and his teacher, Mrs. Shirley Cole, of Grief Point Elementary School.

3 thoughts on “The stuff of dreams

  1. Bob Thirsk a a true gentleman and a Canadian hero. Can you imagine the pride Mrs. Grant and Mrs. Cole (see photo) must share in knowing they were a part of Dr. Thirsk’s education and the respect he shows for his (and all) teachers. Public Education works!!

  2. I had a few really great teachers in elementary and high school that I remember well. But it was a guidance councillor who made a huge impact on my career decisions.

    You see, at the age of 10, I decided I was going to be a doctor, but when I got to grade 13 (which no longer exists in Ontario) and started having trouble keeping my grades up, I had a crisis. What was I going to do if I wasn’t going to be a doctor!?

    This guidance councillor (who wasn’t even at my school; it was my mother, who is a teacher herself, who put me contact with her at her own school) took the time to talk to me for about an hour one afternoon after school, asking me about what I liked to do in life. At the end of that hour, she simply asked “And you never thought of going into psychology??” Apparently, it was a no-brainer for her.

    She opened my eyes to a whole world of possibilities and showed me that when I hit a crisis, I can always take some time to stop and look at things from a different perspective. I am eternally greatful for the time she spent with me.

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