You are hereFormer Brock Teacher Candidate
Former Brock Teacher Candidate
Alicia Gunn helped welcome immigrant students to Canada
Oct 02, 2008
Just call her Top Gunn.
Peel public school teacher Alicia Gunn has been named this year's outstanding beginner teacher (five years or less) in the province.
Students and parents say Gunn brought her boundless energy, enthusiasm and "kids first," philosophy to Mississauga's Oakridge Public School and has left a lasting impact.
"Alicia is an amazing individual who works tirelessly to better the lives of the students at Oakridge," says fellow teacher Vince Normore, who nominated her for the award.
After obtaining her master's degree in economics, Gunn worked as an in-class volunteer – and that's when the teaching bug bit.
"My mom was a teacher but it wasn't until I got a chance to interact with the kids that I realized how much fun it can be, and that was it for me," she says.
Although the school is located in an affluent area, Oakridge serves large numbers of low-income immigrant families living at apartment complexes in southwest Mississauga.
"We are the first stop in Canada for a lot of these kids," says Gunn, who has worked hard to make that experience rich and rewarding for them, by establishing sports and recreation programs during and after school.
Most of the kids are of Muslim background from countries such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghanistan, she says.
"Because of economics or other factors, they weren't getting the opportunity to participate in activities that many of us take for granted."
So she organized and obtained funding for an after-school program, offering swimming and other sports, and arranged bus rides home for them. She also started lunchtime basketball, soccer and floor hockey leagues.
She gave all students a chance to earn a new bike by doing 30 hours of supervised community service in a program sponsored by Tim Hortons and the City of Mississauga. One year, 30 kids earned bikes.
She organized an annual Terry Fox run, successfully fought the closure of a neighbourhood library and found money for helmets for a skating program.
She started physical activity days – Move it Mondays and Walking Wednesdays – for the whole school.
"She is an outstanding teacher ... innovative and creative," writes Oakridge principal Laura Temple-Smith. "Even the newest English-as-a-second-language student experiences success in her class."
Parent Shelley Tsolakis, who worked with Gunn to fight the library closing, describes the young teacher as "a source of constant inspiration."
Gunn has now moved to Edenbrook Hill Public School in Brampton, where she teaches Grade 5, while Normore and others are picking up the ball and carrying on with the programs she introduced at Oakridge.