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For the love of teaching

When Phyllis Arnold toured Old Québec with her husband a few years ago, a class of grade-seven students on a field trip caught her eye: the textbook they were using to learn about Quebec and Canada happened to be one of her own. Although she retired eight years ago, Arnold, a Governor and Fellow of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, still runs into some of the 76 educational books she authored during her career. Arnold Publishing Ltd, the company she started with $50 in 1967, became one of the most successful independently owned educational book publishers in Canada.

“It’s a real challenge to take complex historical and geographical concepts and make them into something that children learn from,” explains Arnold. She designed her books for “the visual learner of today,” using pictures and simulation games such as Marooned — in which a class is stranded on an imaginary island — to help students remember facts.

Leane de Laigue, a high school environmental studies teacher in Vancouver, will remember Arnold for more than her books. Last year, the Canadian Council for Geographic Education presented her with the Phyllis Arnold Professional Development Award, established by Arnold in 2001 to help educators attend professional-development courses and workshops. De Laigue used the subsidy to take courses in navigational skills and wilderness survival. “I just wanted to be more comfortable when I take students into the wilderness,” she says. Arnold, a former schoolteacher in Edmonton, says it’s important for teachers to branch out beyond the classroom and “get a feel” for what is going on in geographic education.

— Jessica Sims

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