CALGARY -- Five Alberta educators and four institutions were singled out recently for creating classroom environments where no one felt left out.

They've gone above and beyond to make sure children with developmental disabilities are welcomed and supported in regular classrooms. The teachers have been nominated by peers and parents for how they advocate for quality inclusive education.

"When students are well included they just go onto brighter futures, they make friends," said Trish Bowman, CEO of Alberta Inclusion. "They do better academically as well."

The 2021 National Inclusive Education Award is an initiative organized by Inclusion Canada and its Provincial and Territorial member associations. 

The award for Alberta is provided jointly by Inclusion Canada and Inclusion Alberta to honour a teacher,  school or school district whose commitment to inclusive education is exemplary and deserving of recognition.

This year's winners are Laureen Lailey from Simon Fraser School, Chris Aylesworth, James Froehler and Nicholas Moskaluk from AE Cross School and Rhonda Lang from Learning Services at Edmonton Catholic Schools and St. Mary Elementary School.


"To be able to say great job, you're making a difference, we all need a little bit of that," said Bowman. "I think it's important to recognize when schools are doing a great job and this is absolutely one of those cases."

Melanie Williams' 14-year-old son Carter has Down Syndrome and goes to Simon Fraser School, where Williams said Laureen Lailey was instrumental in creating an atmosphere with her staff and students that included Carter.

"It was absolutely a pleasure to nominate her," said Williams. "I was not surprised that she won because she just exudes all the principles and values about inclusion and she lives it and breaths it and breaths it into her school."

It's been a challenge for Williams to find the right fit for her son's education and now Carter is excelling in his ninth grade classroom.

"His speech has improved 100 per cent and his ability to have conversations has improved," said Williams. "His willingness to engage, his confidence has improved, he's a new kid - he's so happy!"

Carter is still able to go to school while his classmates are all learning online. He misses them but has lunch daily with his principal, Laureen Lailey.

"I learn every day from Carter on how to be an inclusive individual," said Lailey. "He sees me and he gives me this million dollar smile and he has lunch with me every day and it's an opportunity for me to understand where Carter is as a learner also."


Lailey is honoured to be recognized but said it's a team effort at her school. They created an inclusion team and started looking at their own professional practice and ways they could improve that practice to support all students.

"We all know what it's like to feel lonely and I never feel lonely when I'm with Carter," said Lailey. "Because he always accepts me for who I am so I strive to make sure Carter feels that sense of belonging in our school."

"For (Carter) to have an inclusive life, it begins at school so having these opportunities shouldn't be hit and miss, they should be everywhere," said Williams. "Every kid should have that option to (attend a regular school) so I'm happy to see that a principal really embodies that and leads her team with wanting to further inclusion and belonging."

Learn more about Inclusion Alberta here: