A St. Albert chemistry teacher has won prestigious national award. Paul Kane chemistry teacher Michael Ng learned last week that he was the 2016 winner of the Beaumier Award for High School/CéGEP Chemistry Teachers. Ng is the first St.
A St. Albert chemistry teacher has won prestigious national award.
Paul Kane chemistry teacher Michael Ng learned last week that he was the 2016 winner of the Beaumier Award for High School/CéGEP Chemistry Teachers.
Ng is the first St. Albert resident and the eighth Albertan to receive the award, which is administered by the Chemical Institute of Canada (CIC). The award recognizes excellence in teaching chemistry and comes with a $1,000 grant.
Ng said Scott Gibson Dodd, educational technology co-ordinator for St. Albert Public Schools, crashed his Chemistry 30 class last Jan. 12 to break the news to him.
Ng said the award humbled him, noting that this was the first time that an Albertan had claimed it since 1995 – the same year the James Bond movie Goldeneye came out.
“It's pretty neat to have a winner in the western provinces.”
Ng is known for the dramatic, often incendiary, science demonstrations he performs for students. His Halloween magic show at Paul Kane regularly draws hundreds of kids to see pumpkins spew and canisters explode.
Gibson Dodd, who taught Ng as a student at Paul Kane, described him as a “real Renaissance man,” noting that he was a talented artist and pianist as well as a scientist.
“Michael is about getting people excited about chemistry,” he said.
“He's turning formulas into real-life situations that are dramatic, energizing, and inspiring.”
Grade 12 student Ayla Hermanutz said she helped nominate Ng for the award, having had him as a science teacher for three years. She credits him with inspiring her to look into the University of Alberta's WISEST program (which promotes women in science) and for pursuing a post-secondary degree in chemistry.
“He always knows how to encourage kids to do their best,” she said, and knows how to make his lessons fun and interactive.
“I used to think that chemistry was just you mix this with that and have a reaction, but there's so much more in how it applies to real-life jobs,” she said.
Growing up in St. Albert, Ng credited his interest in science to the late Shayne Page, a veteran science teacher at Lorne Akins known for his giant wristwatch, pet turtles, and ever-present lab-coat.
“He really looked like Doc (Emmett Brown) from Back to the Future,” Ng said.
“He inspired a lot of us to write good lab reports, to pursue science and keep asking why.”
Although he originally planned to become an animator, Ng said he went for his second love of science as it had better job prospects. Working with kids as a volunteer with the Royal Alberta Museum and the Telus World of Science convinced him to get into teaching.
Ng said he learned to do science tricks as part of his education degree.
“I had to find ways to inspire and find better ways to get kids engaged,” he said.
Teachers Don Bliss and Karen Dobko helped him perform his flashy demos for students during his practicum at Bellerose Composite.
“I think they (the students) knew this was special to them,” he said of the shows – something more than just learning formulas.
“They were going to see a show, but they were going to walk out knowing how the show worked.”
Today, Ng is a regular volunteer with the Science Olympics and the University of Alberta's Let's Talk Science program. He teaches others how to do his tricks at teacher's conferences, and runs monthly demonstrations on Edmonton's Global News.
Ng said the best part of his job is getting the chance to show science to students and getting them thinking about it.
“It's just making it fun and watching those kids smile, turning that ‘science is magic' to ‘science is fun.'”
Ng said he would formally receive the Beaumier Award this May. He wasn't sure how he would spend the grant.