2005• Education Award

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Debbie's work as an educator is firmly grounded in her belief that public school systems have the power to create more just, critically engaged sustainable societies.

This core belief is rooted in her South African heritage. At a young age Debbie, born in Hilbrow in 1962, thought deeply about the role that the education system in South Africa had in perpetuating an unjust status quo. Growing up listening to stories about the education system in South Africa from her mother, Antoinette Samson, who was a teacher in Johannesburg, Debbie began to realize the powerful and political nature of public education. As a teenager growing up in Canada she was greatly impacted by the Soweto Uprisings. She drew inspiration from the students who boldly stood up for an education that reflected their voice, rights, language and power.

Debbie has combined her social activism and her passion for education in all the work that she does. She has worked in various roles within the Waterloo Region District School Board, English as A Second Language Department teaching and advocating for the rights of refugee and immigrant students and families. Debbie has also worked at the classroom, school, community and system wide level on many social justice issues including: homophobia, heterosexism, anti-racism education, and gender issues.

Debbie has collaborated with community groups, unions, trustees, administrators, students, families and teachers to foster change at the grassroots and policy levels.

She has inititiated many groups and programs including: Positive School Community Coalition; (a group that advocates for improved policies and resources to insure that all people within her board of education are treated with equity, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender or gender identification) Peace, Fairness and Freedom: (a student social justice group that develops and presents workshops in the community) and A Newcomer Youth Recreation Program in collaboration with community groups.

Debbie has developed and facilitated numerous workshops on Equity Issues as well as English as a Second Language Teaching, Anti-Racism Education, Literacy and Anti-Bullying. She has spoken in the community at forums addressing the needs of marginalized youth. She has been a central figure in the Waterloo District Elementary Teacher Union's Anti-Racism and Human Rights committees.

At the core of all that Debbie does is her passion for teaching. Her teaching is guided by her belief that a true teacher helps students to connect with the power that lies within them to transform their lives and their world. She strives to create a just educational system in which all children's voices are heard and needs are met. She establishes learning environments in which children are encouraged to think critically and make connections with their lives and a world that is grounded in social justice and equity.