Denean Lederer: Lifelong learner shares her passions indoors and out

Year: 2018 – Province: British Columbia

Certificate of Achievement Recipient

Denean Lederer

Baker Drive Elementary School
885 Baker Drive
Coquitlam, BC V3J 6W9

School telephone: 604-461-5323
School website:


Subjects and grades taught: Kindergarten and Grade 1

Starting as a special education assistant 30 years ago, Denean Lederer has gone on to become a full-time classroom teacher and complete a Master's degree. She is now pursuing further graduate-level studies in restorative justice. It is little wonder that she is seen as a model of lifelong learning at her school.

Teaching approach

Learning in Denean's classroom unfolds naturally as she builds on the curiosities, experiences and expertise of students (as well as parents and community members). Consequently what she teaches and how she teaches are always changing to meet the specific needs and interests of her current class.

In the Classroom

  • Employs diverse media to give children multiple entry points to learning: for example, she combines songs with on-screen digital images and text; children also read and listen to books, and record themselves reading; an app supports plant identification during outdoor activities
  • Takes a full-body approach to language: children learn the alphabet by printing letters in the dirt with sticks, writing words in shaving cream with their fingers, and forming letters by combining their bodies, as well as through journal writing, home reading and choral repetition
  • Transforms failures into learning opportunities: faced with an unsuccessful project to make clothespin race cars, Denean introduced the concept of a prototype, explained how failure was part of the learning process, and showed students how to improve their models next time
  • Creates unique leadership opportunities for students: one child with a hearing disability explained, with the help of a specialist, the workings of the ear; another child taught his classmates Japanese characters; yet another shared his knowledge of babies when he became a big brother

Outstanding achievements

  • Spearheaded a project to build an outdoor classroom for the school, including working with colleagues to develop a vision for the space and apply for grants to fund the necessary infrastructure; the classroom has since been expanded, as has the school vegetable garden
  • Sponsored the Me to We Club for intermediate students: they research global and local needs, making decisions about what initiatives to support and raising funds for them
  • Is a leader in the school, working collaboratively with colleagues to build a strong and cohesive community, sharing her expertise, mentoring new teachers, and inspiring and supporting her colleagues to advance their own teaching practice

Rave reviews

"Ms. Lederer embodies a cooperative and caring attitude toward the environment, the community and the world as a whole. She sets a wonderful example for the children, parents and other teachers."