Media Release | Apr 15, 2014

Osoyoos teacher wins UBC Engineering’s McEwen award

Peter Gajda goes well beyond the academics and ‘makes a difference’

A math and science teacher at Osoyoos Secondary School, Peter Gajda, is this year’s winner of the prestigious 2014 McEwen Family Teacher Recognition Award.

Dr. James McEwen (right) and Peter Gajda (left). Gajda is this year’s winner of the prestigious 2014 McEwen Family Teacher Recognition Award

The award is presented annually by UBC’s Faculty of Applied Science, and was created by the McEwen family to highlight the contributions high school teachers make to students and communities through their mentorship. Winning teachers must be nominated by former students for going above and beyond the teaching curriculum to help their students succeed academically and personally.

Nominated by third-year UBC Engineering student Tyson Costa from Osoyoos, Gajda has taught for more than 21 years and has been at Osoyoos Secondary for the past seven.

“As a teacher, I have always tried to remember that the young people sitting before me are the future citizens of our world,” says Gajda, who teaches senior biology, junior science, and mathematics. “I have always taken my responsibility as a role model to my students seriously, fostering their development of independence and values with wisdom, foresight, and patience as they become the leaders of their generation.”

Costa says he nominated Gajda not only because he is a great teacher, but because he spends countless hours at school and goes well beyond the call of duty.

“I could go on to mention how he would spend mornings, breaks, and afternoons helping students,” says Costa. “And he would always be available to talk, not just about school, but about any concerns a student might have about life at any time. I can think of no more deserving person than Peter and hope I can become like him someday.”

Gajda says he is honoured by the nomination and touched by Costa’s kind words.

“I've always hoped that apart from teaching the curriculum that I also help young people develop some character traits that will carry through the next phases of their lives,” says Gajda. “I've always believed that being a positive role model both in and out of the classroom pays dividends and being nominated for this award certainly signifies that all my hard work has helped move the young people I teach forward in their journey.”

Gajda will receive $5,000 for enrichment activities, programs, or development for Osoyoos Secondary, and will be asked to nominate a current high school student to receive a $5,000 scholarship to attend UBC. Costa receives $250 in recognition for his nomination.

Two finalists were also recognized: Steven Mackenzie, a math and physics teacher at George Elliot Secondary School in Winfield, and Vincent Gabel of Fleetwood Park Secondary School in Surrey.

The award was established through a donation by Vancouver biomedical engineer Dr. Jim McEwen, P.Eng., who believes strongly in the importance of celebrating teachers.


Paul Marck
The University of British Columbia Okanagan campus

Tags: APSC, engineering, Student learning

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