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Staff and Students Share Appreciation as Educator Wins Manitoba Teaching Award

May 06, 2024

​Last month, SJASD humanities educator Tara Tuchscherer (pictured right) received the Manitoba Teaching Excellence Award for her exemplary professional practices and an exceptional ability to inspire students and colleagues.

DSC_0247_Insta.jpgTara has been teaching for many years at St. James Collegiate, first tackling French and Geography. Currently, she teaches Geography, Global Issues, and First Nations, Inuit and Métis Studies at the high school. She started her career teaching French and Social Studies at George Waters Middle School.​​

What Teachers and Trustees Have to Say

St. James Collegiate Principal Lorelei Steffler wrote a four-page nomination letter documenting Tara's exceptional contributions to the school community.

“In my 30 years of experience in public education, Tara stands out as the most humble and impactful teacher I have ever had the privilege to work with," she writes.

For Principal Steffler, Tara is a driving force in shaping an inclusive school where students believe in themselves and feel engaged within and beyond the classroom. “There is no equal to Tara's leadership in promoting environmental, cultural, anti-racism, diversity and social justice initiatives or how she delivers holistic education," she writes.

Tara has played an instrumental role in numerous projects, including but not limited to:

  • Helping to establish and/or support student groups including the Eco Jimmies, Culturally United and Sacred Peoples Circle.
  • Establishing St. James Collegiate as Winnipeg's first Fair Trade School in 2017.
  • Securing a Green Circle Salon designation for the school's Vocational Hairstyling Program in January 2023.
  • Obtaining numerous grants to support sustainability, address the impacts of poverty, and tackle social justice issues.
  • Coordinating the school's UNESCO initiatives since 2015.
  • Hosting or supporting the coordination of awareness raising or community-building activities, including a school-wide Wellness Day, International Women's Day, Earth Week, events associated with Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit Peoples, Culture Fest, the Celebration of Festival of Lights, Bear Clan walks and a community feast.
  • Planning and executing monthly, school-wide Truth and Reconciliation lessons for three consecutive years.
  • Engaging students in cultural enrichment activities such as ribbon skirt making, art workshops, hoop dancing and beading classes.
  • Helping students receive recognition through a variety of achievement awards.

St. James Collegiate teacher Jason Kozyra vouches for Tara's impact on students and teachers alike in his own nomination letter.

“I look to her as a mentor in many topic areas where she has helped me to better understand and teach topics and lessons," writes Jason. “I have personally seen a positive change in many students that I have taught since Grade 6 who have grown proud of their cultural backgrounds because of the work Tara has done with her sustainability, awareness and cultural initiatives."​

SJASD Board Chair Holly Hunter took French with Tara while attending St. James Collegiate. “As a teacher, Trustee, and parent, I look to Mme. Tuchscherer in awe. Her commitment to helping young people develop into socially aware and responsible leaders who see themselves as worthy and capable is unmatched. We are so lucky to count Tara as one of our many outstanding educators here in St. James-Assiniboia."

What Students Have to Say

Stephanie D. G. (pictured right) is a Grade 10 student and member of the Eco Jimmies. The group meets every Friday to discuss how they can support sustainability in their school.

Stephanie says they work with Tara to organize and take part in events like Earth Week and World Water Day. They also opened a thrift shop in the school and Eco Jimmies members have taken part in UNESCO conferences geared towards social justice initiatives.

“I think that she's made a large impact because she's been spreading awareness of things that have been going on that are so important, especially to the youth," she says.

Stephanie describes Tara as well known to students, even those that haven't taken a class with her, and the person to talk to about volunteer opportunities.

“One of the most important things she taught me is to be respectful to the environment and living sustainably because before Eco Jimmies I wasn't really aware of the issues, especially fast fashion and pollution," she explains.​

Stephanie is currently taking Geography with Tara. “She's a mentor to me and she's just a really great teacher. She's kind to everyone."

Michael S. is a Grade 12 student at St. James Collegiate. Michael's Guidance Counsellor introduced them to Tara as a safe person to talk to as a trans male. Tara's helped connect them problem solve issues with peers  and connect with services at the Rainbow Resource Centre.

“She's always willing to listen. She's very understanding. She makes people feel safe," they say. “People constantly go into her room to get food, ask for help. People that don't talk to anyone else speak to her. She is very understanding and non-judgmental, so people like talking to her."

Michael has taken Geography, Global Issues and First Nations, Inuit and Métis Studies with Tara. “I feel like I'm learning something new with her every day even when I'm not having classes with her. She's a draw. Every class you take with her is going to be enjoyable, it doesn't matter what it is."

Honey Flett-Frampton is a Grade 12 at St. James Collegiate. Honey is Anishininew (Oji-Cree), and received an Indigenous Youth Achievement Award in 2023 for her amazing artwork. Tara nominated her for the award.

“She's a great help to me as an Indigenous student," says Honey. “She's given me many opportunities to explore my art and my culture."

Honey is currently taking First Nations, Inuit and Métis Studies with Tara.

She credits the humanities educator with helping her establish the Sacred Peoples Circle in Grade 10 when she was taking Tara's Geography class.

“When I first established the club, I wanted to find more information about my culture," she explains.

Now in her senior year, Honey is involved in the schools' Indigenous leadership group, attends Eco Jimmies meetings whenever she can, and helped plan Red Dress Day activities, including donating some of her artwork to help raise funds for Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit peoples.

“She's been quite an inspiration for my artwork, and I hope to continue on with her support," says Honey.​

What Tara Has to Say

DSC_0286_b_webnews.jpgTara found out about her award win before Spring Break but couldn't say anything until the province made the announcement official in late April.

Tara feels grateful for the provincial recognition, and the support she receives from the school. She says it felt cool and fancy to hear from the other winners at the award ceremony, but her acceptance speech and mind quickly returned to her work, and the many initiatives she has on the go.

“I'm constantly being challenged," she explains, adding there is always something new to consider or integrate into her teaching, especially given her humanities focus, constant changes in society, and student needs like mental health and nutrition. “I have a lot of flexibility in what I teach," she says, “what isn't a global issue?"

For Earth Week 2024, Tara organized a week of activities ranging from learning to mend clothes to decorating reusable bottles made by students from Shoal Lake 40 First Nation. The bottle has a QR code linking to further information about the community's history and ongoing advocacy.

Winnipeg sources it's water from the Ojibway community in Treaty 3 territory, but they continue to suffer the impacts of relocation and a lack of services that has resulted in decades of boil water advisories and isolation. In 2019, the community was finally reconnected to the mainland when three levels of government came together to complete Freedom Road, a highway connecting the community to the Trans-Canada Highway.

“You don't know what you don't know," explains Tara, adding she always tells her students that informing people of what is happening is important.

With environmental and sustainability issues, Tara says it's important to avoid doom and gloom with her students. “There are improvements, like the Sustainable Development Goals. There are people doing good and you are doing good."​

When eco-anxiety rears its head, she says different perspectives can help. “Humans are good and smart and capable, and we know what to do."

The long-time educator says she is most proud of her work supporting Indigenous students, especially promoting awareness of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirited Peoples through events and activities.

“Our whole school gets behind it. I know it has personally impacted some students," she says, adding that she uses her privilege as a non-Indigenous educator to help provide students with the space they need to be empowered.​

This year, Tara is the recipient of a 2023-24 Teachers' Idea Fund to foster belonging and connection among diverse students and school staff through cultural activities and mental health supports.

Tara has brought in Elders and Knowledge Keepers to provide teachings; hosted a mental health and wellness day with the whole school offering about 50 workshops ranging from meditation to yoga, physical activity and more; and coordinated a faith tour that involved taking students to spiritual sites. They visited a mosque and synagogue in November.

Despite tense times, student feedback was positive. “They were so lovely. They were so appreciative," she says. “They learned so much."

With the end of the school year approaching, Tara is still planning or wrapping up many projects, including Bear Clan Walks, Red Dress Day activities, a cultural celebration day (Culture Fest), a colour run to celebrate Holi, monthly Truth and Reconciliation teachings on Indigenous Excellence, and of course grad. She's already pondering options for a budget-friendly wellness day next year.

How does she do it all?

“This is what I'm meant to do," she says.

“I feel like I love my job. I love what I do, And I love this building, and it feels good," she says.

(Pictured above, top to bottom): Tara Tuchscherer observes student during reusable bottle decorating workshop for Earth Week 2024; Student Stephanie D. G. presents her decorated bottle, which contains a QR code to a Shoal Lake 40 First Nations information and advocacy campaign. Tara with students (from right) Stephanie D. G., Faireen D., Philippa N., Jhulia de la C., and Jazmine V..


Tara was featured for this outstanding accomplishment in the Community Review West. Congratulations Tara on receiving this important award!



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