Terence Prezens: Learning by doing and building to help others

Year: 2018 – Province: Ontario

Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence in STEM

Terence Prezens

St. Andrew's College
15800 Yonge Street
Aurora, ON L4G 3H7

School telephone: 905-727-3178
School website: www.sac.on.ca


Subjects and grades taught: Computer Science and Computer Engineering, grades 11 and 12

A decade ago, Terry Prezens began a robotics club, which led to the development of a robust dual-stream computer science and engineering program at his all-boys school. Now, his classroom serves as a design lab—a collaborative makerspace in which students pursue learning at their own pace, always under his careful and caring eye.

Teaching approach

Terry supports a constructivist (learn by doing, by connecting with others to make meaning for oneself) and constructionist (learn by building, by solving the problems inherent in designing useful things) environment that transcends the traditional classroom.

STEM in the Classroom

  • Gives students opportunities to learn the technical aspects of computer science and engineering, envision and then build their own innovations, and serve others in the process: students built a functioning quadcopter of their own design (not a kit); others developed glasses for people with visual impairments that signal the presence of objects at both waist and eye level
  • Supports student work in various curriculum areas: business students who are required to start their own company often require a prototype of their product; they build it in Terry's classroom
  • Extends STEM learning to benefit the community: students teach younger middle-school students and young people with autism how to code; other students print free 3D prosthetics for children
  • Leads extra-curricular robotics club, engaging boys after school hours and giving them the chance to compete with peers nationally and internationally

Outstanding achievements

  • Appointed Canadian chair of organizing committee for the RoboCup Junior Soccer tournament that will be held in Montréal in the summer of 2018
  • Hosts the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario board-level programming contest, which sees more than 100 students compete in team programming competitions, and the RoboCup Junior York Region Open, which promotes team competition through mechatronics

Rave reviews

"[Mr. Prezens'] classroom is a place where students feel welcome and free to express their ideas and creativity. … He instils the mindset that the measure of success isn't whether or not something works but it's their journey and their learning along the way."