At Tuesday night's Portage la Prairie School Division Board meeting, Kim Houle, a grade six teacher at North Memorial School (NMS), was honoured with an "Excellence Award" for her handwork throughout the pandemic.

Houle caught up with us here at PortageOnline to talk about the honour.

The grade six teacher says that while being recognized is an incredible feeling, that's not why she goes the extra mile.

"Everything I do is for the students and my school, to make it a fun and educational learning space for everyone."

During the board meeting where she was given the award, Houle was explicitly praised for her work with students during COVID, something that she notes was a unique experience that she has never had in her 15 years of teaching.

"As I'm sure all teachers can say, it's been a bumpy rollercoaster, two years for sure. Trying to keep the strong relationships that I built with my students was foremost, my intention, during the time of COVID, because relationship-building is the biggest key to my success in my classroom and my student's success."

While some teachers struggled to get through to their students, Houle took her teaching game to the next level. She created "NewsNet" to engage her students who faced challenges getting online at certain times.

"So, I made videos that they could watch at any time of day, so if they couldn't log on live with me for a lesson. Then things were available to them on Google Classroom to log on at a time that it worked for them and their family."

Houle notes that with NewsNet, she got the opportunity to teach from unique locations such as a farm, on top of a pool ladder and other locations.

"The kids were really excited to see where I was live on location, and it just gave them something that was fun to watch."

Houle shares that just out of her good nature, she would go above and beyond for her students to continue learning at the very beginning of the pandemic when much was unknown.

"Students were isolating at home, and they were worried about going out in the community because COVID was so prevalent at the beginning, in particular. So, we had learning from home packages that we had at the school, but that was a barrier for some people if they didn't feel comfortable leaving their house. So, I got on my bike, and I would grab their learning packages from the school and deliver them to their mailbox. There was a no-contact delivery."

Houle has many people to thank for inspiring her to be a teacher, including her own former teachers as well as current and past colleagues who have believed In her.

"I emulate what these mentors were for me, and I want to be the same for my students. The students are awesome, and they do amazing things, so it's really easy to believe in them because they just surprise me every day with the amount of things that they can do."

She adds that working with students and the relationships gained through those connections is the most rewarding part of her career.

"I always say I have 16 kids. I have 15 at school, and I have one at home. Sometimes I'd say two because my husband is in on that as well. He's sometimes a child," says Houle jokingly. "They are like my children, I treat them the same as I would my own child, and I think that's really important. They trust me. I trust them. We have a good relationship." 

In closing, Houle says that getting this award is humbling and an honour but at the end of the day, she just wants to be the best teacher she can be.

"I just want people to have equal opportunity to learning. So, I thank everyone who has supported me through this journey, and I've got lots of years left. I look forward to continuing to be the teacher that I am."