Meet the winners of the Because You Teach contest

A lesson lasts just a moment, but the impact can last a lifetime. All throughout Back to School season, we’ve been asking Canadians to share stories about teachers who’ve changed their lives and nominate them for the Because You Teach Contest. We’ve been hearing about some inspiring educators, and it gives us a real sense of wonder to know that people like these are guiding the students of today as they create the world of tomorrow.

We’re passionate about empowering these teachers’ work in the classroom with awards including devices, tokens of appreciation, celebrations at their schools, and professional support from the Microsoft Learning Development Specialists. Throughout the school year, educators work hard to inspire learners and put them first, so now we’re showing them appreciation for their passion and the constant care they show their students.

So now, on World Teachers’ Day, we’re excited to announce the winners of the Because You Teach contest and share some details from the nominations sent in by the people they’ve inspired!

So now, without further ado, we’re meet our grand prize winner, who’ll be receiving an HP Probook x360 440 G1 to support her work, 15 HP Probook X360 11 G1 student devices for her classroom, a celebration with her team, and a connection with the Microsoft Learning Development Specialists. Our grand prize winner is Marisa Chiera from Loretto Abbey Catholic Secondary School in Toronto!

Marisa’s community sent us a video outlining her amazing work and shared some of the following insights into why she’s such an amazing teacher. Here’s some of what they had to say…

From a colleague: “In all the years that I’ve been teaching I don’t know that I’ve met someone that cares as much about students on all levels—academic, personal, social. She really does take the profession and give it the care that it needs. She’s organized, she’s knowledgeable, and she’s passionate about her subject.”

Her students had amazing things to say as well: “Miss Chiera really is the teacher that changed my life forever. When I was in grade nine, coming into a new school was so intimidating, and Miss Chiera welcomed me with open arms. She made herself available absolutely any time I needed it. If I ever needed to talk to someone, if I was ever having a bad day, or something was bothering me, she was always there for me. And even now, she’s always been my biggest supporter and someone that I know I can talk to about absolutely anything. I really hope to be like Miss Chiera when I get older, because she is someone that genuinely wants to make Loretto Abbey a better place. I am so lucky to have somebody in my life who welcomes me into their office with open arms, never shuts me down, and always puts a smile on my face whenever I see her in the halls.”

Our runners-up will also receive an HP x360 440 G1 device, a team celebration, some special surprises, and a session with our Learning Development Specialists. Congratulations to all these inspiring teachers!

Richard Llanera, Native Sena School, North Caribou Lake First Nation

Here’s what one of Richard’s students shared: “Richard is known in the North Caribou Lake region as one of the finest and most dedicated teachers the school board has. Due to the distance and harsh weather, teaching in the northern area of Canada is not something that many teachers would choose to do—but not for Richard Llanera. As a new local, he was open to all sorts of experiences, including learning about the indigenous culture, upgrading his knowledge by taking online courses on special education for diverse students, helping students with extracurricular activities outside the normal school tasks, and many more. He also managed to build relationships not just with the students but with the parents and the whole community.”

Brigitte Gendron, École orientante l’Impact à Boucherville, Boucherville, Quebec

An excerpt from Brigitte’s nomination: “Brigitte has been my arts teacher for 2 years in a specialized school for young people with learning difficulties—personal and academic. She wasn’t just an excellent teacher, but also a good ear to turn to. In high school, I had many difficult moments associated with my anxiety. Whenever I arrived in a classroom, Brigitte brought me back to myself and helped me find strategies to persevere. She’s like that with all her students: she sees when something is wrong. Without her, I would not be where I am today!”

Lee Martin, Central French Immersion Public School, Grimsby, Ontario

Read about Lee’s methods in the classroom: “Lee is making change happen every day by leveraging technology in the classroom and by fostering learning environments that utilize tech in a way that engages and excites. He promotes women in STEM by bringing female STEM leaders to the school. He is teaching students how to think, how to make mistakes and learn from them, and be okay with constructive failure, rather than fearing it.”

Sonia Rainville, École Saint-Jean, Aurora, ON

Here’s a look at Sonia’s impact: “Sonia teaches at Saint-Jean school in Granby, in a D.I.M. class for students with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities. Throughout her career, Sonia adapts her teaching to her students, using multiple learning strategies. Sonia has been providing instruction to her students for over 22 years! Sonia’s generosity, patience, and compassion for particular situations are outstanding qualities that add to her teaching. Indeed, Sonia has the gift to put herself in the place of her students and better understand them.”

Further runners-up win a celebration for their staff and the chance to work with one of our Learning Developments Specialists. Congratulations to each and every one of these inspiring teachers!

-Bryan Williams, Balmoral Hall School, Winnipeg, Saskatchewan
-Amanda Dandy, Coronation Elementary School, Montreal, Quebec
-Cassie Mucciarone, St. Francis Junior High School, Lethbridge, Alberta
-Danièle Laverdière, St-André Catholic School, Granby, Quebec
-Jennifer Kamal, Queen Elizabeth District High School, Sioux Lookout, Alberta
-Simona Plati, St. Patrick Catholic Elementary School, Schomberg, Ontario
-Kirsten Osbourn, Balmoral Hall School, Winnipeg, Manitoba

-Damien Lozada, Father Michael Goetz Catholic Secondary School, Mississauga, Ontario


All of these teachers bring something unique to the classroom, and we know there are thousands more just like them across Canada, changing lives, inspiring growth, and encouraging a thirst for knowledge among the students who will create the future. We can’t thank teachers enough for the work they do!

If you’re a teacher and are looking for support on how you can bring innovation and technology to life in your classroom, you can access free PD from Microsoft or our certified training partners. To learn about classroom tools and low-cost devices, visit And for free resources, online courses, and to connect to a community of passionate educators, visit the Microsoft Educator Community.