Phoenix teacher Peter Ubriaco vividly remembers what it was like growing up in an environment that maybe wasn’t the most conducive to efficient intellectual development.
“I guess one of the advantages I’ve always thought I have – if you can call it an advantage – is that I had lots of different abuses going on in my house when I was growing up,” he says. “So I feel like I can kinda relate to some of the kids that maybe some other teachers can’t relate to when it comes to the things that are happening outside the school.”
For him, teaching isn’t about transferring information, it’s about building relationships, which is why the nominations that came in all had statements like “I’ve never seen my child so engaged” in them.
“What I try to do is get down to their level and try to remember what it’s like to be a Grade 8 student with a Grade 8 brain and just remember that I have to teach in a way that they buy into what I’m selling,” he says. “They have to believe that what I’m selling has value. I can act like a kid – if there was a camera in this room you’d see me being extremely silly sometimes – but it’s a very delicate balance between being their friend and being their educator and being a counsellor sometimes when you need to, and that’s what I have to do: blend all of that together.”