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Canby High's Joel Ekdahl was recognized for modeling compassion and acceptance for all students

When high school administration and the superintendent showed up to Canby High School English Teacher Joel Ekdahl's classroom to tell him he had won the monthly Canby Area Recognition of Excellence Award, he was in the middle of a discussion with his students about the Day of Silence—a day to draw attention to the marginalization of LGBTQ people at school.

"In American Lit B especially, we cover several different groups of people who have been marginalized…There's actually a student who brought to my attention that we don't get the opportunity to talk about this community very much in the classroom," Ekdahl said. "So I thought today might be a good day to kind of ask some open-ended questions about why people might be silent and why there needs to be such a day. So, it's kind of cool that you came in on this day."

His leading this discussion was in step with the very reason he was nominated for the CARE Award.

"Mr. Ekdahl is a very supportive, open-minded, understanding teacher and person in general," the nomination letter said. "Mr. Ekdahl also creates an atmosphere where students feel safe to express their opinions and feelings on any subject that may be up for discussion."

Canby Kiwanis and Canby School District respond monthly to nominations like this one and give the CARE Award to teachers, counselors, coaches and other school staff who make a difference in the lives of others and in the community.

CANBY SCHOOL DISTRICT - The latest CARE Award winner, Canby High English teacher Joel Ekdahl (center) receives his award flanked by CHS Principal Greg Dinse (right) and Canby School District Superintendent Trip Goodall.

As April's winner, Ekdahl was later honored at the April school board meeting, where Superintendent Trip Goodall read aloud portions of the nomination letter.

The letter went on to say, "I believe he is providing an excellent student teaching experience as well as helping his students with self-esteem issues. He has done very good work encouraging students to do their very best and that it is okay to be 'who you exactly are.' He is a great asset to Canby School District and deserves to be acknowledged for all his hard work."

"And I couldn't agree more, so congratulations Joel," Goodall said.

Acknowledged he was as CHS Principal Greg Dinse grabbed the mic to brag on Ekdahl to the community. Dinse shared that he has known Ekdahl since Ekdahl was a student at Tualatin High School when Dinse was the vice principal.

"I think what's so special about Joel is that he came into teaching with enthusiasm and a lot of energy, and he brings that to all his classes because he cares deeply about his students," Dinse said. "And what I think is so really telling about him is that you extend yourself well beyond just your teaching assignment, and your work with the SAFE community has really helped embrace a lot of our students to feel like they're welcome and part of our greater Canby High School community and really a key part of that community.

"Joel, your leadership has really set the stage that has inspired a lot of our students," Dinse continued. "So on behalf of the staff at Canby High School, I also congratulate you."

Ekdahl received a plaque and a gift basket from local businesses in recognition of his work. Local sponsors of the CARE Award include Canby Kiwanis, State Farm Insurance-Matt Olsen, Columbia Bank, DirectLink, The Wild Hare, Backstop Bar & Grill, Rice Time, The Human Bean, Cutsforth Marketplace, Gwynn's Coffeehouse, Team Spirit and Puddin' River Chocolates.

To nominate someone who you believe is deserving of the CARE Award, nomination forms can be found here on the district's website.

Kristen Wohlers
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