Alumni honoured with the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence

Thursday, May 11, 2017 / Campus

Prime Minister's Teaching Award of Excellence logo

Two exceptional Lakehead University alumni received the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa on May 3.


When Tom Doherty (BED, HBA and BA from Lakehead and MED from Western) received his award, he gave Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a great big hug.

“As a proud Métis, it is our culture to greet someone through embrace, and so I greeted him as any proud Métis would have,” Doherty said, adding that he became very emotional when receiving this teaching award.

Doherty currently works as the student retention lead at Keewaytinook Okimakanak Board of Education in Balmertown, Ont. He is on a leave of absence from St. John School in Red Lake where he taught kindergarten to grade 9.

Pictured right:  Tom Doherty hugs Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the ceremony held in Ottawa.

“I’m proud of all the great things my students achieve through the facilitated learning I provide,” he said.

Doherty added that it’s important for students to learn about Canada’s Indigenous cultures and traditions.

“I draw as much First Nation, Métis, and Inuit content into the curriculum as possible, which allows students to gain a knowledge base and appreciation of our First Peoples,” he said.

Doherty said attending Lakehead University and serving on the student union helped him realize his potential.

“Achieving the goals I set for myself as a Lakehead student gave me a sense of accomplishment. It taught me that no matter where you come from in life, with hard work and dedication nothing can stop you from achieving success,” Doherty said.

His desire to succeed empowered him to become a teacher. “I impact students by helping them achieve their dreams through action,” he said.

Kathy Cepo (BED from Lakehead) was nervous before meeting Prime Minister Trudeau, until she spoke with him. “He very quickly put me at ease and made me feel
comfortable,” she said.

Pictured right:  Kathy Cepo presents the Prime Minister with the robot team T-shirt.

Cepo teaches science and chemistry to students from grade 9 to 12 at St. Joseph’s Catholic High School in St. Thomas, Ont.

Five years ago, she and two colleagues started FIRST Team 4525 Renaissance Robotics, a competitive team allowing students to design, build, and program a new
120-pound robot each year that plays a unique game with robots around the world.

Approximately 10 per cent of students at St. Joseph’s participate on the robotics team, and 84 per cent of graduates from the team pursue studies in science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics.

“My time at Lakehead University affirmed that I made the right career choice,” Cepo said.

“From lessons learned in the classroom at the University to those learned during my practicums - I feel that I had a great start to my career.

“I highly recommend Lakehead University as a place to earn your Bachelor of Education degree. I met many students from diverse backgrounds in an area influenced deeply by nature and the environment,” she said.

“Lakehead’s Faculty of Education is pleased to congratulate Tom Doherty and Kathy Cepo, along with the other recipients of this prestigious award,” said Dr. John O’Meara, Dean of Lakehead’s Faculty of Education.

“Tom and Kathy’s commitment to – and passion for – teaching and learning is an example to all educators. This commitment speaks to the exceptional education offered at Lakehead University,” Dr. O’Meara added.


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Lakehead University has about 9,700 full-time equivalent students and 2,000 faculty and staff in 10 faculties at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead is a fully comprehensive university: home to Ontario’s newest Faculty of Law in 44 years, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and faculties of Engineering, Business Administration, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Social Sciences & Humanities, Science & Environmental Studies, Natural Resources Management, Education, and Graduate Studies. In 2016, for the second consecutive year, Re$earch Infosource ranked Lakehead first among Canada’s undergraduate universities. Visit