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Letter from a K-12 STUDY CANADA teacher associate in Arizona

Educators at the NRC's "Archives on the Arctic" workshop in Denver, CO. (06/13)
Dennis Rees (far left) and other educators at the NRC's "Archives on the Arctic" workshop in Denver, CO. (06/13)

December 31, 2013

Originally posted: December 2o13

My name is Dennis Rees and I taught 6th – 8th Grade in the Peoria Unified School District in Peoria, Arizona, for 30 years. I have had a wonderful career as a teacher focused on improving geography education in middle school classrooms. In 2007, I even received the first Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship from the National Council for Geographic Education for my efforts and was graciously awarded with a Lindblad Expedition to the Galapagos Islands as well as a $3000 honorarium. Even so, a highlight for me has been learning about Canada and encouraging other teachers to include new and improved content on Canada in their social studies classrooms.

Over the last eleven years, I have been fortunate to participate in several workshops offered by the Pacific Northwest National Resource Center (NRC) on Canada, including three “STUDY CANADA Summer Institutes”. My first experience was in 2002 when the program was held on the campus of Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA. I participated again in 2006 when “STUDY CANADA” moved to Vancouver and Whistler, BC and focused on themes connected to 2010 Winter Olympics and, again in 2012, when a “Capital View of Canada: Nations within a Nation” became the theme and the location moved to its capital city, Ottawa, ON. In addition, last June, I participated in a special “Archives on the Arctic: Connecting to Global Issues with Primary Sources” workshop that the NRC offered with a grant from the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Western Regional Center. Combined, these experiences provided me with a huge wealth of information about Canada’s geography, history, government, culture, and economy. The presenters were knowledgeable and enthusiastic. I always came home with a fire in my belly to spread the word about Canada not only in my school but also at professional development events.

One way I promoted Canada at my school was to create a “Canada Resource Shelf” in our Geography Lab. It contained an artifact box filled with items that were examples of Canadian culture, heritage, geography, and economy. In addition to that, I collected resource materials, maps, digital media, music, children’s literature, and instructional materials that teachers could use in their classroom to teach about Canada. Several of these items were inspired by resources found in the K-12 STUDY CANADA Resource Valise, a teacher loan-kit available to teachers across the country for a 3-week loan period (to learn more, see

Classroom lessons were also expanded and shared as part of professional development presentations made at national education conferences such as NCSS San Diego (2007) and NCGE Lake Tahoe (2006), San Marcos (2012), Denver (2013) as well as at several regional Arizona Geographic Alliance GeoConferences. These presentations helped me not only get the word out about the NRC’s K-12 STUDY CANADA resources at<> and the summer institute but also to show the need for greater knowledge about Canada in our social studies curricula. Though now retired, this is how I continue to share knowledge about Canada with colleagues and I am delighted to do so on behalf of the NRC as a K-12 STUDY CANADA Teacher Associate.

As a result of my professional development training by the NRC, access to K-12 STUDY CANADA resources, and my continued outreach, many students, pre-service teachers, classroom teachers and social studies supervisors have been impacted. It has been rewarding to know that they left our interaction with a better understanding of Canada, our too often-overlooked northern neighbor.

As an active member of several education organizations, I encourage others to explore the NRC’s resources and, especially, participate in a STUDY CANADA Summer Institute – the experience is transformative for teachers at every level of education…and all who know me recognize that I do not give such compliments often or lightly. Thanks to all at WWU and UW for the professional development opportunities and support provided to teachers like me. I wish you continued success in bringing Canada into American classrooms.

The Canadian Studies Center forms the Pacific Northwest National Resource Center (NRC) on Canada with the Center for Canadian-American Studies, Western Washington University (WWU).Tina Storer, at WWU, serves as Education and Curriculum Specialist for the NRC. STUDY CANADA is the NRC’s annual professional development workshop, offered by the Center for Canadian-American Studies at Western Washington University for the last 34 years serving educators from almost every state in the nation. The Institute is funded, in part, by a Title VI grant from International and Foreign Language Education, Office of Postsecondary Education, U.S. Department of Education.