Cmolik Prize

$100,000 SFU Cmolik Prize winners and finalists announced

April 27, 2017

The Cmolik Prize selection committee has awarded the 2017 $100,000 Cmolik Prize for the Enhancement of Public Education in B.C. to SFU education professor Peter Liljedahl, whose mathematics teaching framework is helping to revolutionize classrooms across B.C. and North America. The winner was chosen from 24 outstanding nominations. 

The Cmolik Prize recognizes recipients who have developed and implemented an invention, innovation, concept, process or procedure that enhances educational practice in the K-12 public school system in B.C.

“From 50 years of research in mathematics education, we know that problem-solving is an important mechanism for students as they learn to think mathematically, and for acquiring a deeper knowledge and understanding of the mathematics they’re learning,” says Liljedahl. “Yet, the majority of mathematics classrooms in B.C. offer students little to no problem-solving experiences.”

Liljedahl set out to research and develop a set of practices, called Building Thinking Classrooms, to help math teachers implement problem-solving in their lessons. This framework encourages collective thinking, and also creates an open space for students to learn through activity and discussion.

Since introducing the program, Liljedahl has delivered in-service education for thousands of K–12 mathematics teachers and is currently working with teachers in 14 school districts across the province.

He says teachers’ implementation of these practices has been tremendous. His research shows that, after training, 97 per cent of teachers were willing to implement the framework, and that 95 per cent were still using it after six weeks.

"I am grateful to the Cmoliks for their dedication to the betterment of education in B.C. and am hopeful that, in winning this prestigious prize, my work to increase student thinking and engagement will gain even greater attention, and help transform the experiences of even more mathematics students across B.C. and beyond.”

Kris Magnusson, SFU’s dean of education, says he is extremely excited to award Liljedahl the 2017 Cmolik Prize.

“Peter’s Building Thinking Classrooms framework has helped hundreds of B.C. students experience mathematics in a supportive environment, eliminated social barriers and created strong classroom communities,” says Magnusson. “We are very grateful for his contributions to public education in B.C.”

The award was created through a generous endowment to SFU’s Faculty of Education by Russ and Ellen Cmolik, founders of the Cmolik Foundation. They say education has been a powerful tool that has helped them open doors for themselves and the award is a means of sharing this with others.


Dream_Create_Learn (DCL): Inquiry Hub and Student-Powered Projects
A transformation of the traditional block schedule model, Dream_Create_Learn (DCL) is time for students to pursue personal interests with school support and credit towards graduation. As much as 50% of a student’s week is open for individual projects and self-directed learning.

Nominees:  John Sarte, David Truss, Alan Soiseth (School District 43–Coquitlam)

Through a Different Lens
Through a Different Lens is a teacher-led project looking at innovative teaching and assessment strategies that capitalize on student strengths by allowing them to choose a method of both learning and representing that is aligned with their interests, cultural background, talents and strengths. The focus of the project is on engagement, strength-based teaching and assessment, and teacher collaboration.

Nominees: Todd Manuel, Judith King, Naryn Searcy, Jeff Fitton, Myron Dueck, Leyton Schnellert (School District 67–Okanagan Skaha)

Honour Roll

Farm Roots: A Ground Breaking Mini School
While earning dual credits for secondary school graduation and Kwantlen Polytechnic University, students design, plan and build a farm on a small school set on 8 acres. Students in this mini-school learn about food systems and sustainability by engaging with core course curricula in the context of farming. 

Nominees: Nancy Gordon, Jeanette Beaulieu, Brooke Moore, Graham Harkley, Tammy Veltkamp

Learning Without Limits: Surrey Academy of Innovative Learning
Surrey Academy of Innovative Learning (SAIL) is a blended interdisciplinary school where students learn through inquiry and project-based learning using a variety of digital tools. The school fills a need for students to learn in flexible, personalized environments in alignment with BC’s new curriculum.

Nominees: Sabrina Symons, Jaswinder Uppal, Lisa Domeier de Suarez, Tamela Manery, Margaret Westaway

Mobile Makerspace
Appropriate for Kindergarten to Grade 12, Mobile Makerspace provides schools with access to technological experimentation and design opportunities with Lego robotics, littleBits, Sphero robotics, and coding learning experiences. This access to technology is often difficult to come by given challenges with funding or lack of expertise.

Nominees: Corrine McWhinney, Josh Vance, Brendan Robertson

Take a Stand: Youth for Conservation
Developed to share and treasure the natural beauty of British Columbia with youth, the aim of Take a Stand is to inspire, motivate and empower youth to protect and conserve the environment through art, film, and youth-driven action.  

Nominees: Allison Kermode, Norm Hann, Nicholas Teichrob, Anthony Bonello

Young Entrepreneur Leadership Launchpad
The Young Entrepreneur Leadership Launchpad (YELL) is a hands-on, experiential accelerator for high school students interested in gaining knowledge and developing experience in all areas of business and entrepreneurship. YELL helps students interact with like-minded individuals, build a community-based framework to enhance innovation, and provides a learning structure to foster innovation and advancement for future generations.

Nominees: Amit Sandhu, Punit Dhillon, Rattan Bagga, David Cameron

If you haven't done so already, we encourage you to learn more about the wonderful work of all the 2017 nominees.

We also wish to extend our thanks to all of the nominators and nominees for sharing your contributions and working to enhance public education in BC.