Board Approves 2022 Edwin Parr Teacher Award Nominee

Mar. 08, 2022

​​​​​As an educator, Safiya El Ferro wears many hats: ally, advocate, mentor, coach, and champion — not to mention first-year teacher at John G. Diefenbaker High School​.​

In only her first year on the job, El Ferro has helped her students and colleagues create a more inclusive school environment through a dizzying number of initiatives.

Earlier this year, she helped Muslim students successfully advocate for a prayer room within the school. She worked with the system’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Team to create respectful places for LGBTQ+ students. In keeping with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action, she also set up virtual meetings with Elders and Knowledge Keepers to help Social Studies students understand the impacts of residential schools.

In recognition of her excellence in early years teaching, her commitment to students and her service to the Calgary Board of Education, El Ferro was named the 2022 Board of Trustees’ nominee for the prestigious Edwin Parr Teacher Award.

The honour was officially conferred at a public Board meeting on March 8.

“Safiya El Ferro exemplifies the values of the CBE, and in particular the work of CBE CARES,” said Tori Healing, Education Director in Area 2 in reference to the Collaboration for Anti-Racism and Equity Supports (CARES) commitment to embedding inclusive practices that advance equity and anti-racism. “It is evident through many examples that she is a role model for each and every one of her students.”

El Ferro has demonstrated a passion for social studies and that passion has followed her everywhere, from Parliament Hill in Ottawa to Riverside School in Calgary, to virtual teaching in cyberspace.

Wherever she goes, there seems to be one place where El Ferro always ends up: John G. Diefenbaker High School.

In addition to being a first-year teacher at Diefenbaker today, El Ferro is also an alumna of the school.

As a Diefenbaker student, she excelled in her studies, played volleyball and field hockey, and met Prime Minister Trudeau when she travelled to Ottawa for the Forum for Young Canadians. 

She returned to coach volleyball there throughout her university studies and it’s where she completed two teaching practicum experiences.

“Safiya El Ferro is a tireless worker and exceptional role model. Her colleagues remark on the fact that she sets the example for others and she’s the sort of teacher every parent would want for their own children,” said Michael Bester, Principal, John G. Diefenbaker High School. “It’s truly special to have a new teacher with so much pedagogical experiences in our school and to see her continue her growth here as an educator.”

El Ferro graduated from the University of Calgary with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Bachelor of Education specializing in secondary Social Studies. In addition to boasting a sterling Grade Point Average (GPA) as a student, she also volunteered with Calgary Wee Reads as an online tutor.

After a short assignment at Riverside School, El Ferro returned to her high school alma mater in 2021 to teach Global Politics, Social Studies and Career and Life Management (C.A.L.M.). She is recognized for owning a strong body of knowledge within her subject area while still being able to bring subject matter to life for students. 

The Edwin Parr Teacher award was created by the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) in 1964 to recognize outstanding teaching performance by a beginning teacher. If El Ferro is selected as the zone winner, she will be recognized along with five other zone winners from across Alberta at an ASBA meeting this fall.

L-R: Trustees Nancy Close, Dana Downey, Marilyn Denn​is, Edwin Parr Nominee Safiya El Farro, Laura Hack (Chair), Trustees ​Susan Vukadinovic, Patricia Bolger, and Charlene May.​