September 30, 2021
Johnny Dulku, a physics and chemistry teacher at Westwood Community High School in Fort McMurray, Alberta, has been awarded the 2021 McEwen Family Teacher Recognition Award by the UBC Faculty of Applied Science.
The annual award aims to "[celebrate] teachers who go above and beyond teaching the curriculum to ensure their students succeed" both academically and personally. The award also aims to encourage UBC Applied Science students, who nominate the teachers for consideration, to "reflect on the impact their teachers had on their success."
Dulku was nominated by Farah Sadek, now a second-year student in UBC's Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, who says her former teacher "morphed how I thought about environmental activism, and changed how I viewed myself as a person with a disability and my person overall.”
"I would credit Mr. Dulku’s work as a mentor and teacher as the reason why I chose to pursue engineering,” Sadek wrote in her nomination letter. “He built me up as a person and saw the potential I had before I even believed in it myself. He works to provide students with the best experiences and opportunities.”
In 2012, Dulku founded an after-school environmental club called Green Initiative, the first of its kind in Fort McMurray at the time. According to Sadek, it has since inspired teachers to establish similar groups at other middle and high schools in the area, which has long been associated with the Canadian oil industry.
During her years with Green Initiative, Sadek pursued projects such as a net-zero aquaponics system, 3D printing using recycled plastic and renewable energy STEM camps. In 2018, Westwood was named Canada's second greenest school by the Canadian Green Building Council and Green Initiative won the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition for Western Canada.
Sadek, who led a number of different club and school projects and received multiple awards in high school, attributes many of her personal successes to Dulku's mentorship.
“Living with my visual impairment achromatopsia, I often felt isolated from various communities and treated as incapable and fragile by the adults and peers in my life,” she wrote. “Mr. Dulku had a different approach. He trusted in me to ask for help and to know my limits. He allowed room for mistakes and in doing so made me feel less isolated and incapable in the STEM world.
"Mr. Dulku [also] took my enthusiasm for activism and climate change and gave me the resources and support I needed to be a leader."
On September 17, UBC Applied Science hosted an event to celebrate Dulku's award and achievements. Attendees included Dulku, his wife Amanda Closson, Sadek and members of the UBC Applied Science leadership team, including Dean James Olson; Dr. Bhushan Gopaluni, associate dean of education and professional development; and Debbie Woo, senior director of development and alumni engagement.
Also in attendance were Dr. James McEwen and his children, Jenn Alberts and Jeff McEwen. A pioneering figure in the field of biomedical engineering, Dr. McEwen is a UBC Engineering alumnus and adjunct professor of electrical and computer engineering who established the award with his family in 2011.
Dulku will receive $5,000 to spend on school enrichment activities, programs or development, and $2,000 for his own professional development. In addition, he will be asked to nominate a current high school student to receive a $5,000 scholarship to attend UBC. Sadek will receive $1,000 in recognition of her efforts.
For more information about the award, please visit apsc.ubc.ca/mcewen-family-teacher-recognition-award.