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Alex Trebek Medal for Geographic Literacy

2006 Recipient - Paul VanZant

The footloose geographer

Paul VanZant
(Photo: Students on Ice)
Paul VanZant recalls a moment last Christmas when he "really got a sense of [his] place in the world." Chaperoning students in Antarctica and sitting atop an icy hill overlooking a bay jammed with glaciers, he heard nothing but the wind. The moment truly emphasized for him his lifelong passion for all things geographic.

The head of geography and history at Mayfield Secondary School in Caledon, Ont., northwest of Toronto, VanZant has also organized class trips to Italy and Costa Rica. Paraphrasing American geographer Carl O. Sauer, he says, "It's wonderful to see children experiencing geography through the soles of their feet."

CCGE Ontario Representative Wayne Andrew (left) presented Paul VanZant (right) with the 2006 Geographic Literacy Award.
Outside the classroom, his involvement in the Ontario Association for Geographic and Environmental Education has helped shape the provincial curriculum. He also recently co-authored a textbook that promotes hands-on learning. It is for these reasons, among others, that VanZant is receiving the Canadian Council for Geographic Education's 2006 Geographic Literacy Award.

During almost two decades of teaching, he has helped his students understand and appreciate the world around them and the place they have in it. "Canada is such a remarkably diverse country," he says, "and a lot of us don't get to see it."

— Maria-Lucia Castillo

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