Joseph W. Atkinson Scholarship Recipient
Jennifer Parker has tutored elementary students and prison inmates and helped renovate a school in El Salvador. The Queen’s University teacher candidate has served food at the school’s soup kitchen, taken lecture notes for students with learning disabilities and baked pies to raise funds for Easter Seals.
And that’s just a slice of her active volunteer life.
Parker, 22, is the 10th recipient of the Joseph W. Atkinson Scholarship for Excellence in Teacher Education. “It’s so important to get involved in different communities — not just a community with physical boundaries but communities of people who share a similar interest and similar passion,” she says. “For me, that’s what I was able to find in my volunteer experiences.”
Articulate and primed for leadership, Parker has served as a student trustee in high school and a student senator at university. She is currently executive director of Queen’s Explore Camp, which provides geography workshops for elementary and high schools and a summer camp for youth.
This year, Parker was honoured with the Robert J. Hill Award for outstanding graduating concurrent education student at Queen’s. She made the Dean’s Honour List her first year at Queen’s and the Dean’s Honour List with Distinction the next three years in a row. Parker was the top graduating student in the department of geography.
Parker earned an Honours B.A. and will complete her B.Ed. in 2013. She is studying to become qualified in Intermediate and Senior division geography and history.
Registrar Michael Salvatori, OCT, Deputy Registrar Joe Jamieson, OCT, and Chair Liz Papadopoulos, OCT, with Jennifer Parker.
Her choice of the teaching profession is easy to explain. Her grandmother, Edna Parker, a retired principal and former president of the Federation of Women Teachers’ Associations of Ontario, has had a strong influence in her life.
Family ties ignited Parker’s interest in education and her experience as a student trustee in Grade 12 at the Simcoe County DSB left no doubt she wanted to become a teacher. As a student trustee, she learned about the administrative side of education and to value the student voice in the classroom. “What it comes down to is we’re there for the students, to help them succeed and reach their goals,” she says.
She has tutored elementary students and Kingston Penitentiary inmates through Frontier College, a Canada-wide, volunteer-based literacy organization. She also volunteered for the university’s MindFind Tutoring Service, helping a mature, first-year sociology student whose second language was English.
The transition from small-town Midland, just north of Barrie, to Queen’s University in Kingston, was difficult at first for Parker. “I was entering into a population of students that was higher than the population of my town. It was so different,” she says.
She decided to start with one volunteer activity — the Queen’s Rotaract Club — an affiliate of the Rotary Club of Kingston. She travelled to El Salvador, where she helped to renovate a school and visited orphanages with suitcases of supplies for impoverished children. “After that experience, I just knew that I couldn’t stop,” she says. She added more volunteering, community and extracurricular activities to her schedule.
The Ontario College of Teachers awards the Atkinson scholarship annually in honour of the College’s second registrar. Teacher candidates must study at a faculty of education in Ontario and achieve outstanding academic success in their undergraduate studies while demonstrating a high level of preparedness for teacher education.