By Lethbridge Herald on October 8, 2020.
A local teacher’s tireless work for building cognitive, social and emotional skills in her students has earned her a prestigious award.
Lynn Wytrykusz, a teacher at Westminster Elementary School, has been recognized with a certificate of achievement through the Prime Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Early Childhood Education program.
“Just finding out several days ago that I won and I was a regional recipient, I was just so honoured about that, just to be recognized in that way,” said Wytrykusz, who teaches the Early Education Program for children ages three to five, Thursday morning as class started for another day. “We come in and try to do the best work we can every day. We love the work that we are doing here and then, on top of that, to be recognized with an award is just amazing.”
Westminsterhas a play-based early education program and, using her background as a dance instructor, Wytrykusz has allowed her students to explore and build new skills and work on different event developmental pieces.
Her classroom includes refugees, economically disadvantaged children and children with developmental delays and behavioural issues.
Wytrykusz and her teachers note each child’s strengths, needs and interests so she can engage them all with activities they enjoy that also help them grow.
Wytrykusz worked alongside Robbin Gibb at the University of Lethbridge in the Building Brains and Futures Program, featuring 10 teaching strategies that help develop executive functioning skills in children.
“Just being able to look at what we do through another lens and looking at neuroscience and taking that piece and really running with it, what we have been provided with is basically 10 games that Dr. Gibb has given us a curriculum for, games that she felt would really help children build executive function skills,” said Wytrykusz. “So they’ve done the research around that and they know that it’s something that will help children improve that set of skills, which is a huge piece of their development.”
Wytrykusz noted the window of time in the first five years of a child’s life that, because of the recent research, can have the biggest impact on a child’s executive function skills building, changing their brain in positive ways.
“The brain at that stage has the highest level of plasticity it will ever have,” she said. “It has the most connections, which to me is amazing to think that these little ones that come to us have the most connections in their brain that they will ever have. So the more we can do to help them hang on to those things, build positive connections, I find that amazing.”
Westminster principal Angela Wilde said she and her staff were thrilled to see Wytrykusz recognized with the award.
“She has been an early education program manager here for seven years and she has taken some very core brain research with regards to executive functioning in young children, three- and four-year-olds, and turned them into 10 teaching strategies that parents, educators and community support people can use to improve students’ executive functioning.”
Wytrykusz shared the credit with her co-workers.
“My team is absolutely amazing here,” she said. “We have so much talent in this room and ability. Everybody comes in with their best intentions, their patience and their kindness and they pour that into these kids every day. That goes to my direct team in the Early Education Program and the school as a whole. It’s an amazing place to be.”
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