Kathy Cepo - St. Joseph's Catholic High School

Year: 2017 – Province: Ontario

Transcript—Kathy Cepo Video

[Kathy Cepo: speaks to camera, with the Parliament buildings as a backdrop behind her]

[Photos of Kathy and her students are displayed on screen throughout her interview]

[Upbeat music plays softly in the background]

My name is Kathy Cepo. I work at St. Joseph's Catholic High School in St. Thomas, Ontario.

[Text on screen: Kathy Cepo, Ontario]

I wanted to become a teacher because I love science, I love learning about science, and I think that to get excited about that and learn about it more, you learn more about yourself.

My presentation I did today was steam-powered STEM, blurring the lines between teachers and learners. I found that in my career that sometimes we're presented with opportunities that we're too scared to take because we don't know all the answers. So it's a great modelling experience for kids to see, you know what, their teachers don't know everything, but together we can all figure it out.

I'm really proud about how our robotics team reaches out not only in our own community but also internationally. We've partnered with a non-profit called Just Cause Education Outreach. So what we do is we partner with them in terms of offering STEAM curriculum that our students in Canada do and the students in Africa do as well, and we connect via Skype and Google Hangouts. So the students really get to see how different cultures live and what interests them as well. So providing opportunities for education for all kids has really been amazing for us.

[Video footage of Kathy receiving her award from Justin Trudeau is intercut]

My advice for all educators is don't be afraid. Put yourself out there, try something new, don't let fear keep you from learning something amazing.

Winning the top teaching award in Canada is an unbelievable feeling. It's so humbling. Really proud of myself. But like, at the same time, when you're talking about winning an award for education, it's not just me in a bubble. Like, you have to acknowledge that I'm motivated by incredible educators that I work with every day who motivate me to be better. And – and I feel that all of us working together has really accomplished this – this award in my life.

Student: Well, I know that, you know, the little things matter to her, and I think that makes students better at what they're doing.

[Canada wordmark]

[Music ends]

Certificate of Excellence Recipient

Kathy Cepo

St. Joseph's Catholic High School
100 Bill Martyn Parkway
St. Thomas, Ontario  N5R 6A7

Principal: Jacqueline Campigotto
School telephone: 519-675-4434
School website: www.ldcsb.ca/school/SJH

Subjects and grades taught: Grades 9 to 12, Science and Chemistry

Kathy Cepo is a chemistry teacher who started a competitive robotics team in a rural Ontario community that now includes 10% of the student population, and in five years has inspired 84% of graduates on her team to pursue STEM related fields.

Teaching approach

"I'm not sure, let's find out"; this high school chemistry teacher encourages questions and gets students involved in finding answers. Cepo garners credibility from her students as she shows them what it means to be inquisitive, how inquiry skills can help discern the validity of information and how being genuinely interested in something is exciting, worthwhile and rewarding.

Outstanding achievements

  • Regularly fosters community connections with her students.
  • Developed a partnership with the adjoining college to establish a metal working college class for the high school students – while the course requires a tuition fee, Cepo ensures that it remains accessible to all students through small business sponsorships. The partnership now also allows students to access cutting edge technology labs at the college, as well as to learn from industry professionals.
  • Partnered with Just Cause Education Outreach to develop curriculum for robotics programs for students in Uganda. Workshops are run on the ground in Uganda, while Cepo runs them in tandem with her students. This allows the students to engage online in hands-on activities using a variety of technologies.

Rave reviews

"Kathy has shown through her passion, commitment and dedication to STEM activities as well as student engagement, that teachers can truly inspire students to give back to their community through mentorship opportunities and prepare them for a productive role in an innovation based workforce and in society."


"[Ms. Cepo]'s mentorship of staff, both in our school and throughout the board, is a testament to her ability to inspire others to achieve best practices. Her appreciation for the importance of lifelong learning is a guiding principle in her pedagogy."