West Island teacher wins national environmental award
Lia Ciarallo teaches all the core subjects — English, French, Math, etc. — to her Grade 3 students at Kingsdale Academy in Pierrefonds.
But Ciarallo is also teaching her 8- and 9-year-old students how to make a positive impact on the environment by adopting some eco-initiatives in the classroom.
Those initiatives, which included a waste-free lunch program that encourages students to reduce their use of single-use plastics, and a “Power Hour” initiative that sees the entire school turn off their class lights for an hour each day, has earned Ciarallo the 2021 Energy Educator of the Year award for her “ongoing commitment to environmental education.”
Ciarallo was awarded a $500 prize, one of two given out annually to a primary and a secondary educator as part of the Classroom Energy Diet Challenge, Canada’s largest, bilingual, curriculum-based energy conservation competition that targets K-12 students and “empowers them to join a community of young environmental stewards.”
The national program is presented by the non-profit Canadian Geographic Education, a branch of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, and Shell Canada.
The Grade 3 students also received $150 for their efforts.
“I’m so proud of my students,” said Ciarallo. “It’s also nice for them to have something to do for their school. It gives them some a sense of belonging.”
“I’m learning with them, too,” added Ciarallo, a former champion synchro swimmer at McGill University.
She says environmental awareness is best taught at an early age.
“It’s just really to be aware at such a young age. I’m not expecting my students to change the world or anything, but if they learn these little things from a young age, then in the future, they could really make a difference.
“At the end of the day, they are the future. What they do in the future can and will impact the earth. That’s what I’m hoping for.”
Ciarallo said she was always environmentally conscious but has become more committed to green causes since becoming a teacher at Kingsdale Academy, formerly known as Greendale Elementary. (The school changed its name to Kingsdale Academy after it merged with Thorndale School, which closed in 2016 due to low enrolment.)
Ciarallo said she was eager to get involved in eco-initiatives at the school when she became a mentor four years ago.
“When I started teaching here I was trying to find a project I was passionate to do outside of my classroom with students. And one of the integration aides was really passionate about the environment and she got me involved in different things they were doing,” she said.
“The following year I wanted to start composting in the school so I started school-wide composting. I implemented that so every classroom has their own compost bin and the city (of Pierrefonds-Roxboro) was really involved. They gave us everything for free.”
Susan Cherry, the integration aide who nominated Ciarallo for the award, said the young teacher is making a difference at the school.
“Ms. Ciarallo takes her passion for the environment with her into her classroom by teaching her students about environmental sustainability and helping them reduce their carbon footprints,” Cherry said. “No matter what project she decides to start school-wide, she starts it in her classroom first.”
Ciarallo’s Grade 3 students are Tyson Arkorful-Cadorin, Elianna Godbout, Freshlyn Gabriel, Kenneth Lewis, Samuel Mansour, Connor McDowell, Juliette Milad, Jeremiah Morrell, Ava Pattison, Onella Paul, Aleayah Reilly, Makaela Shepherd, Adan Solito Cano and Fatima Tarhini.
Ciarallo said the class will likely celebrate their environmental recognition awards with some kind of year-end pizza party. “The students are very excited about that,” she said.