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- James Kostuchuk Video Profile
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Year: 2009 – Province: Manitoba
Certificate of Excellence Recipient
Portage Collegiate Institute
65–3rd Street S.W.
Portage La Prairie MB R1N 2B6
Subjects and Grades Taught: World History, History of Rock and Roll, Drama and Archive in grades 11 and 12
Most people think of history as something that is out there—in books, "in the past." Students lucky enough to get into James Kostuchuk's class rapidly learn that history is something you do. Whether it's analyzing various source materials, creating archives or writing history books, Mr. Kostuchuk's students don't just learn history; they learn how to be historians who record, organize, archive and analyze the past.
Mr. Kostuchuk makes a point of avoiding the "open-head-insert-fact" style of teaching. Instead, he shows students how to use a wide variety of materials, including information and communications technology, to help them solve the mystery of history, and explore art and drama. He also builds networks with local history and arts communities as well as with former students and uses these connections to launch and support projects that raise awareness of history and drama and help students learn.
- Mr. Kostuchuk created an archive program for credit at Portage Collegiate, where he has taught for eight years. The first program of its type in Canada, it involves students in making an organized collection of all school-related materials and memorabilia, digitizing school videos and photographs, and interviewing former students (including the oldest living graduate). In addition to creating the archives, the students also put together a travelling exhibition and a website to make the information easily available to the public, and organized displays for an annual history fair.
- Students in Mr. Kostuchuk's classes develop a passion for history under his guidance. Two students have received the prestigious Dr. Edward Shaw Medal for history writing from the Manitoba Historical Society. Another student wrote a 200-page history of the school, which was short-listed for a provincial award. More than 30 of his students have conducted research that inspired follow-ups in newspapers, television and on the Internet. One student's work was the focus of a story by Peter Mansbridge on the CBC.
- Mr. Kostuchuk tied art and history together through the ArtsSmarts program run by the Manitoba Arts Council, which not only brought funding into the school but also gave students unique learning opportunities. For example, after a unit on the history of watercolour painting in Canada, Mr. Kostuchuk had students produce watercolours with a local artist.
- In drama class, Mr. Kostuchuk's students spend the entire school year writing plays for submission to the provincial drama festival. His students have had an excellent rate of success, with two of them taking home the top honour of high school scriptwriter of the year.
"Outside of the classroom, Mr. Kostuchuk is a fantastic mentor. He has earned a reputation among students for being no-nonsense but caring. In the 10 years that I have known him, he has never once turned down a request to proofread one of my essays or help me understand an enigmatic poem or article." Student
"An ambassador for the school, Mr. Kostuchuk continues to place [Portage Collegiate Institute] in a positive public light as he promotes the importance of history in all our lives." School administrator