Life-changing. Tangible. Engaging. Passionate. Connected.
These are just a few of the words used to describe Rockridge Secondary science and leadership teacher Tom Harding’s impact. Former students carry his lessons with them for years, citing his ability to bring learning alive through experiential teaching as the spark that ignites interest in the natural world and inspires careers.
In addition to his method, students past and present frequently mention Tom’s style, which one former student described as ‘infectious enthusiasm’. Together, these qualities earned Tom a Certificate of Achievement in the 2016-2017 Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence.
Diana Dickinson, a 2004 graduate and now a dietician at BC Children’s Hospital, describes the profound impact his class had on her:
Each lesson was carefully crafted with a collection of material from different sources to accommodate diverse ways of learning and ensure we never tired of the material. In a true departure from textbook learning, we would watch videos, do experiments, make maps, do group projects, hear stories, and read from many different books. Not only has this passion shaped my academic career but also my fundamental outlook and way of living within the earth’s systems. Tom’s deep investment in teaching and caring personality has resulted in me, and many other students throughout the years, developing a close relationship with him, and to this day I consider him a close mentor and role model.
Tom understands that inspiration comes from student passion, and channels that effectively to connect students to issues that matter to them, and encourages curiosity and open-mindedness. Emily Schaeffer (Grad 2004) a Posdoctoral Research Fellow in Pediatric Orthopaedics at UBC, says Tom ignited the spark that propelled her into an academic science career.
Tom really challenged us to take charge of our own learning and become independent thinkers. This is the first time I can recall being challenged in that way and to that extent, and it was an extremely important step in my own personal academic journey. He helped me trust in my own logic, reasoning and deductive abilities that are so critical to develop as a scientist.
Tom’s respect for students built connections with students that remain with them. For Wesley McPherson (Grad 2009) who was a boy of 14 when he took science 9 with Tom, the thing that really stuck with him was his attitude towards kids.
“Even though we were 13 or 14 at the time, he treated us like adults. He never talked down to us. We could have been colleagues in a lab with him for the way he treated us.”
Congratulations on being recognized with the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence – Certificate of Achievement, Tom. We are so fortunate to have you as part of our district, witnessing the amazing connections you make and the profound impact you’ve had on current and former students.