The efforts of two high school teachers to encourage and support students have been recognized with the Loran Scholars Foundation's Teachers Building Leaders Award.
Kevin Shmyr of Mount Royal Collegiate and Adam Peters, now at Evan Hardy Collegiate, were nominated for the award by Tanner Zekonic, a 2015 Loran Scholar and Mount Royal graduate, in recognition of the impact they had on his education and life.
"Mr. Peters and Mr. Shmyr saw something in me that I didn't see in myself, and from the first time I entered their classrooms, they helped me to reach my potential," Zekonic told students during a ceremony held June 6. "They afforded me every opportunity to lead both inside and outside the classroom and were there through all of my ups and downs. For this, I can never truly repay them.
"Having recently lost my father, I came to Mount Royal lacking in role models, and in structure. At the time, I didn't know what I was looking for, but I found just what I needed in the two of them."
The Teachers Building Leaders Award recognizes primary and secondary school teachers who provide students with early inspiration, guidance, and growth opportunities. To receive the award, a teacher must be nominated by a former student who was chosen as a Loran Scholar. Zekonic received a Loran Award valued at approximately $100,000 and studied at McGill University. It was an opportunity that he says changed the trajectory of his life and resulted in an honours degree in Economics and Environmental Science.
Peters and Shmyr are among 28 Canadian teachers who will receive the award this year in recognition of the way in which they introduce their students to new ideas, inspire them to learn and encourage them to realize their potential in and out of the classroom.
"I'd like to thank Tanner for this honour," Shymr said. "I feel like the focus of all of us being here today should be to celebrate Tanner and his achievements. I think that we can learn a great deal from Tanner and the success he has had so far in his life. He is an intelligent student, but I feel that he embodies other qualities which have led him down this path of success: initiative, accountability, sense of respect for others, kindness, determination and independence."
In accepting the award, Peters highlighted the work done by all teachers to connect with, work and encourage their students, not only to help them learn but also to help them discover who they are and what they are capable of achieving both in school and in life.
"The staff here are trying to help you see who you should be, and that's where someone like Tanner really shows that," Peters said. "I'm really thankful that Tanner is here; I'm really thankful that he is a Mustang."
In the nomination, Zekonic said that soon after his arrival at Mount Royal it was Peters who "saw potential in me that I didn't know I had. Throughout elementary I hadn't really needed to put in much work to get decent grades — and the same thing applied during high school — but Mr. Peters knew that I could do better. Inside the classroom and out, he pushed me like no other teacher had before."
Shmyr, an electronics teacher, encouraged Zekonic to go beyond the class requirements by competing in extracurricular Skills Canada events and taking on additional projects that allowed him to build his skills and knowledge.
"Mr. Shmyr identified me right away as someone could take on extra work in his electronics class," Zekonic said, noting that a disappointing performance during a Skills Canada event in Grade 10 was a valuable learning experience. "It was absolutely what I needed at the time. It pushed me to improve, to do better in the future competitions. I steadily improved and eventually medaled in my Grade 12 year. I don't know that I would have done as well had I not gone and failed at the competition in Grade 10."
Shmyr also encouraged Zekonic's involvement in the charitable We See You project that saw students play a role in outfitting a shipping container as a fully-functional solar-powered home.
"He had me lead a team of the stronger students in his class to wire the container," the nomination reads. "It was an opportunity most people in Grade 11 don't have: a real-life project, with budgets, deadlines, and workers that all needed to be coordinated. I was asked to take on a lot, and it was extremely rewarding seeing what could be accomplished when I led a team and put in the work I did."
Outside of the classroom, Peters coached basketball by challenging his players, including Zekonic, on the court in the same way as he challenged students in the classroom.
"I definitely attribute this to his willingness to develop everyone as an individual; it wasn't just me who benefitted from having him as a teacher/coach/mentor," the nomination read. "I believe every student that went through his classroom, and especially those who were lucky enough to be coached by him, were made better as individuals by having known him."