Guelph Teacher Awarded Third Annual OGI Genomics Teaching Prize
Toronto The Ontario Genomics Institute (OGI) has announced the recipient of its 2009 Genomics Teaching Prize, Mr. Doug Gajic from Centennial Collegiate Vocational Institute (CVI) in Guelph, Ontario. The annual prize recognizes the Ontario secondary school teacher whose teaching best exemplifies OGI’s commitment to preparing Ontario’s students for their future roles for which understanding genomics and proteomics research and its outcomes and impacts will be advantageous or even crucial specifically as life sciences researchers or entrepreneurs, but also generally as individuals making decisions about themselves, their families and their businesses.
“Mr. Gajic’s enthusiasm for genomics clearly carries over to his students,” commented Dr. Christian Burks, President and CEO of OGI. “Their letters of support were specific about the impact he, and the curriculum he has developed, have had in their ongoing education."
Educating tomorrow’s scientists as well as creating a broadly informed citizenry is paramount in continuing Ontario’s global leadership in using genomics and related sciences to address challenges facing our world in such diverse areas as agriculture, biodiversity and conservation, environmental stewardship, human and animal health and natural resources management. Teachers like Mr. Gajic play an important role by emphasizing, through their innovative and engaging teaching, the impact that genomics research and the resources it generates such as software tools, databases and laboratory reagents are having on life sciences and biotechnology.
Doug Gajic has been teaching biology and biotechnology for 16 years, the last eight of which he has dedicated to building the genomics and biotechnology program at Centennial CVI. Mr. Gajic’s curriculum has students use up-to-date equipment to explore the relationship and impact of genomics and related fields to the biological sciences. As part of the course, Mr. Gajic exposes his students to current topics, techniques and tools in genomics including, for example, the Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD, a global resource funded in part by Ontario’s Ministry of Research and Innovation and Genome Canada through OGI). He has also arranged for students to visit the Canadian Centre for DNA Barcoding at the University of Guelph’s Biodiversity Institute of Ontario each year. His students come out of his classroom with a competitive advantage; for example, members of his grade 12 class secured 12 of the 15 summer research assistant positions in plant biology at the Molecular and Cellular Biology Department at the University of Guelph over the last 3 years to work on genomics-related projects in both corn and Arabidopsis.
" I love teaching genomics as it provides the holistic framework that empowers my students to understand how recent developments in molecular diagnostics and gene function will allow them to make informed life style choices leading to productive and healthier lives,” commented Mr. Gajic. “My students become engaged and passionate about their learning when they become the scientists in the classroom. Regardless of whether they are using genomics in my classroom to clone a gene that allows bacteria to glow in the dark or working shoulder-to shoulder with University of Guelph mentors in a research lab trying to understand the genetic switches that activate a virus to kill crop-destroying insects, my students become excited about what they are learning. You are having a huge impact on their lives and career choices. That’s where the reward in teaching lies.”
Mr. Gajic has been instrumental in establishing Centennial CVI since 2003 as the school to beat in science competitions. He has mentored or supported over 25 student research groups who have received first place standing or gold medals at various science contests which include the Sanofi-Aventis Biotalent Challenge (London), the Waterloo-Wellington Science and Engineering Fair and the Canada Wide Science Fair.
The OGI Genomics Teaching Prize, which was formally presented to Mr. Gajic in a recent ceremony, included a $5000 cash prize and a budget for up to $2000 in new laboratory equipment and/or instructional materials for the classroom. The award also covers the cost of having Mr. Gajic share his award-winning approach to teaching genomics with other life science teachers at a science education conference in the coming year.
"The recognition and award from OGI represents a tremendous boost to my teaching program," said Mr. Gajic, "and in particular I am very excited about being able to augment our classroom resources and share approaches to covering genomics with other Ontario teachers over the coming year."
The OGI Genomics Teaching Prize was initiated in 2007. Candidates are self-nominated, and their packets are evaluated competitively on the strategy and impact of their classroom approaches to addressing genomics as a new paradigm for life sciences research. OGI’s 2009 advisory review panel included a former student of last year’s prize winner, an OGI-funded genomics researcher and experts in life science education, including representatives from Ontario’s Ministry of Education, Science Teachers’ Association of Ontario, Let’s Talk Science and Laurentian University.