Markham teacher earns Prime Minister’s Award

A Milliken Mills High School teacher dedicated to helping students ”be inspired by the wonders of science” has earned a Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence.

“I am honoured to be celebrated alongside some of Canada’s most passionate and innovative educators with a 2024 Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence,” Karen Choo says of the award, which is given to educators who demonstrate outstanding achievements in education.

Choo is recognized for her work to bridge STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) courses with cultural experiences to empower students from all backgrounds to engage in STEAM fields. She is also recognized for prioritizing learning opportunities that ensure students see their identities and interests reflected in the classroom.

In the classroom, Choo has earned kudos for fostering student-led discussions about the ethics around emergent technologies, such as artificial intelligence. Among other things, she also weaves STEAM representation and interpretation into arts classes through activities like bacteria-based art projects, photography printing, and presentations from guest speakers who have built careers and interests in both fields.

“I am thankful to all the students, families and fellow educators that have allowed me to learn by their side,” Choo says. “Together, we have woven the strands of STEAM and student voice and choice throughout everything we do. From our Grade 9 science exhibition to coding lunar rovers, I want to show both my students and fellow educators what is possible when we try hard things, embrace the messiness and build community.”

Her list of achievements includes empowering students with the skills to teach coding, which in turn leads to student-to-student mentoring opportunities. Choo worked with senior chemistry students to create and perform chemistry-based magic shows for the school’s Multiple Intelligence and Developmentally Delayed class. She also presented an experiment she designed at ChemEd, North America’s largest conference for high school chemistry teachers, and has helped develop chemistry courses for Milliken Mills’s International Baccalaureate program.

“While maintaining an innate sense of humility, Ms. Choo exudes enthusiasm, positivity and optimism; teachers and students want to work with and learn from her,” school principal Christopher Hilmer says. “She works hard to help her students succeed and to support colleagues so their own students can be inspired by the wonders of science.”


Photo: Karen Choo accepting the award from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Photo courtesy of the York Region District School Board)

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