Presenting PHE Canada's 2023-2024 National Award Recipients

Group photo of all 2023-2024 award recipients for the PHE Canada National Awards and Sask provincial awards, who attended the 2024 PHE Conference Awards Banquet.

PHE Canada is pleased to announce the 2023-2024 National Award recipients and recognize their commitment to physical and health education. We congratulate all of the award recipients for their quality work, passion for the field, as well as their exemplary conduct and significant contributions to the PHE Community.

R. Tait McKenzie Lifetime Achievement Award

Named after the distinguished Canadian physical educator, physician, and sculptor, the R. Tait McKenzie Lifetime Achievement award epitomizes Dr. R. Tait McKenzie’s professional ideals, service to humanity, and dedication to the advancement of knowledge and understanding of physical and health education, recreation, and dance. This award honours an individual's extraordinary and life-long dedication to the advancement of quality Physical and Health Education practices across Canada.

This year's R. Tait McKenzie Lifetime Achievement Award recipient is:

Dean Kriellaars receives the R.Tait award from Jo Sheppard

Dr. Dean Kriellaars
University of Manitoba
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Dr. Dean Kriellaars is currently the associate Dean of research at the College of Rehabilitation Sciences, Department of Physical Therapy at the University Manitoba. He is also the Scientific Director at the Center for Circus Arts Research, Innovation and Knowledge Transfer as part of the École Nationale de Cirque, in Montreal, Canada. Also, Dean is the Physical and Health Education curriculum development lead for the new Physical Education and Health Education curriculum for Manitoba Education.

Dr. Kriellaars has had significant local, national, and international contributions in many schools, community, sport/recreation, and rehabilitation contexts. Within the Health Education and Physical Education context, Dean’s contributions span from local development of world-leading PE programs such as circus in schools, provincial influences including Health Education/Physical Education curriculum development lead, and national/international impacts in the area of physical literacy assessment tool development. Further, Dean’s work has had a significant impact on making movement spaces more inclusive. From his nomination form “Dr Kriellaars is a wonderful ambassador for the promotion of quality movement for all” Dean is, among other roles, an exercise physiologist and advocates tirelessly for physical education, health education, physical literacy and physical activity because of the positive impact it can have on our society. According to Dr. Kriellaars, “Learning to move is as important as reading and writing skills, and the ability to work with numbers,” and he has tirelessly advocated for this over his career.

PHE Canada Impact Award

This award honours an individual, group, or organization for their exemplary and unique contribution to Physical and Health Education and/or Healthy School Communities through the development of innovative resources, practices, pedagogy or research and has demonstrated results that show their transformative impact.

This year's PHE Canada Impact Award recipients are:

Charles McEwen and Aleks Kunovac

Charles McEwen and Aleks Kunovac
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Charlie co-founded Hfx Youth Futbol, Cleatcycle and Coatcycle with Aleks Kunovac. To date, they have distributed over 800 pairs of sneakers and cleats to families in need. They have coached over 100 kids over the past year in greater Halifax. HfX Youth Soccer is expanding to now have 6 coaches, so that it can continue as a legacy project once they graduate from Halifax Grammar School in June 2024. Charlie has established a solid working relationship with Joseph Howe Elementary, and has put measures in place so the soccer program and its secondary initiatives will continue long term.

Charlie and Aleks have had a huge impact on their community. Through soccer, they have helped the children and their families integrate more easily into Nova Scotia and helped create a sense of community and belonging. Many of the children and their parents don't speak English and come from war-torn places, but they come together and share a love of soccer. Charlie McEwen and Aleks Kunovac are extraordinary high school students and soccer players, and both are deserving of the PHE Canada Impact Award.

Kids Run club receiving the Impact award from Jo Sheppard

Kids Run Club
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

Kids Run Club (KRC) is a school-based recreational running program designed to give children and youth an opportunity to embrace active, healthy living. This award-winning program addresses common barriers to physical activity, including financial challenges, access to programs, and poor physical literacy. The program is offered at no cost, requires no special equipment and is adaptable to all ages and abilities. Whether kids are already experienced runners, want to learn to run, or choose to participate by walking or wheeling, the goal is for them to have fun. Kids Run Club's solution to getting kids to be healthier and more active doesn't involve fancy apps, expensive technology or groundbreaking ideas. It's sustainable: KRC focuses on elements that have been part of childhood since the beginning of time: running, playing games, belonging, storytelling, learning, and having fun.

The program reaches over 17,000 children each year, and since 2004, KRC has impacted the lives of over 228,000 children in Nova Scotia. Its impact has expanded beyond Nova Scotia: It was replicated in Alberta by Ever Active Schools as the AMA Youth Run Club and has satellite schools in New Brunswick. Kids Run Club also supports teachers in the classroom with resources to get their students active during class-time.

Mae Cameron accepting the Impact Award from Jo Sheppard

Mae Cameron
Campbellton, New Brunswick

Mae Cameron has had many accomplishments that have benefitted both students and educators is ASD-North School District. Mae's commitment to advancing physical education in ASD-North School District and throughout the province is evident in her innovative practices, her ability to think outside the box, and recognizing the evolving needs of the students of today. Mae has embraced the use of technology in physical education, uses a games approach to engage students, has implemented strategies to ensure PE is inclusive for all students, promoted the importance of outdoor education, has integrated mindfulness and yoga into PE and promotes a student-centered approach fostering a sense of ownership and accountability. Mae has tailored PE programs to meet the individual needs of students with disabilities. She has also been able to partner with community groups bringing additional opportunities to students in ASD-N while also allowing them to see the importance of wellness beyond the school setting.

Mae created and elementary school soccer league for students in the northern part of the province. She also organizes elementary basketball jamborees from the city of Bathurst up to Campbellton in New Brunswick. Mae organizes and elementary and a middle school track and field day for students from Bathurst to Campbellton along with a mountain bike race and cross-country events in Bathurst. Mae has been instrumental in getting educators certified in first aid and has led the yoga and mindfulness movement in ASD-N. Her outstanding contributions have not only had a significant impact in the school system but have also reverberated throughout her community as a whole, making her a deserving nominee for the PHE Canada Impact Award.

Morag Asquith

Morag Asquith
Lethbridge, Alberta

Morag has been employed with Lethbridge School Division for 8 years. During this time, she has demonstrated an extensive commitment to health and wellness promotion that is exemplary. She has an outstanding ability to connect with different partners and agencies and see potential of education connecting and supporting learning. The ideas that have evolved in the work she has been a part of has evolved through collaboration, commitment, deep listening and incorporating the needs of staff, students and parents. Through her actions it is evident she is aware of the impact proactive measures related to health and wellness have on learning and the larger community. Furthermore, Morag is a role model as a leader for wellness, she believes in leading positive wellness by example. She models a commitment and passion to fitness and health and positive social relationships. As a systems leader and certificated teacher in Instructional Services she leads the Wellness Committee meetings (4X a year), Health Champion Meetings (3 X a year) and has spearheaded several creative and inspiring wellness initiatives.

Morag is aware of how to mobilize and effect change that is long standing and comprehensive. She involves community partnerships with AHS, YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, Jordan's Principle, Helen Schuler Nature Centre, U of Lethbridge Nursing Programs and teams with her staff under the umbrella of Instructional Services to impact change in schools and in the community. Morag has championed 3 specific initiatives in the last two years that have gained significant traction in schools- Self regulation Initiative, Think Outside Program and the Digital Wellness Program. Each of these programs resulted in significant change and awareness within Lethbridge School Division.

OTU Student Chapter members accepting the Impact Award plaque

Ontario Tech University PHE Canada Student Chapter
Oshawa, Ontario

The Ontario Tech PHE Canada Student Chapter, is the first of its kind at any Canadian university. This inaugural leadership team, designed and brought to life by five dedicated teacher candidates, has not only created meaningful physical education teacher education, but has also left an indelible mark on the educational landscape for PETE in Canada. As an affiliate of PHE Canada, the chapter advocates for the highest standards in Health and Physical Education, and focuses on connecting teacher candidates with the broader national Health and Physical Education community.

This group led a series of open access workshops for teacher candidates, including OPHEA and CIRA seminars, mindfulness, mental wellness for teachers, walk and talk outdoor PE hikes, peer support, intramural programming, TGfU, and 1st year orientation to PHE for 200 students. The team has led the way by inviting teacher candidates in creative and inclusive ways, most recently including a partnership with the YWCA in Oshawa, taking a social justice approach to supporting women and children in shelter situations with accessible, free physical activities. In a mere year, they served over 300 teacher candidates, amassing a membership of over 100 active general members, both PE and non-specialist teacher candidates. As a result of their efforts, PHE Canada student chapters are now starting across Canada. The incoming executive team has doubled, with ten members ready to take the reins and increase chapter membership, activities, initiatives and presence in the broader PHE Canada community.

Ophea accepting the Impact Award at the banquet night at the 2024 PHE National Conference

North York, Ontario

Ophea is deserving of PHE Canada’s Impact Award because of their over 100 year commitment to PHE and, most recently, comprehensive school health, which led to the development of an innovative national public health intervention called "Healthy Schools Certification". This initiative was implemented in thousands of school communities across Ontario, in 100% of school boards, leading to significant shifts in health attitudes and behaviours in participating school communities. Ophea’s commitment to this process-based intervention led to national scaling, in partnership with PHE Canada and Ever Active Schools, reaching 600+ schools across Canada in its first year.

In addition, Ophea has created safety standards for physical education and thousands of inclusive PHE classroom activities. Primarily used in Ontario, this work has influenced practice across the country.

National Award for Teaching Excellence in Physical and Health Education

The PHE Canada National Award for Teaching Excellence in Physical and Health Education honours Canadian teachers at the elementary, middle, or secondary levels, who have an exceptional ability to motivate students to engage meaningfully in their journey through physical and/or health literacy with thoughtful and inspiring teaching practices and pedagogy, exemplifying high quality Physical and/or Health Education in Canada. 

This year's National Award for Teaching Excellence in Physical and Health Education recipients are:

Anita receiving the award plaque at the 2024 PHE National Conference banquet

Anita MacDougall
Emily Carr Public School
Oakville, Ontario

Anita is a dedicated and inspiring Physical Education teacher. Her career has spanned over 20 years and she is currently the lead PE teacher at Emily Carr PS in Oakville, Ontario where she has worked as a teacher, coach, role model, and leader for over 14 years. Her program embodies what quality Physical and Health Education ‘looks like, sounds like, and feels like’ for all her students as well as the adult staff who work alongside her and watch her weave her magic during her daily lesson delivery. Professionally, Anita ensures that her assessment practices are current and on-going and reflective of her programming. Her passion for including student voice and choice is respected and valued by her students who appreciate the opportunities to be collaborative and ‘heard’ in their learning journey. Her inclusive approach ensures that all the needs of her students are met both physically, socially, and emotionally and she is a steadfast and tireless advocate for what is best for students and putting them first.

Anita continues to be a lifelong learner and has contributed to professional development with the Halton District School Board and is currently a ‘Champion Teacher’ building capacity with the Halton District School Board, Hamilton Wentworth District School Board, and Durham Catholic District School Board, as well as working with International educators in Ontario, Alberta, Australia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, Hungary, and other places around the globe on the Meaningful Physical Education research approach to delivering quality Physical Education. This approach supports and encourages students to actively engage in their life long journey through physical literacy. Anita creates an environment where each child is known, acknowledged, empowered and valued.


Dani Thomson
Greenway School
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Dani is a seasoned physical educator, who provides high quality programming for all her students. Dani believes that all students should find success in physical education and her teaching reflects this. By conducting a physical education program that is non-competitive, offers a variety of traditional and nontraditional games, scaffolded with multiple entry and exit points, and emphasizes a process or product mentality every student in Dani's gym is able to experience success in a safe, supportive, and exciting environment. A highlight of Dani's program is how she fosters a climate of acceptance and support amongst her students. This is shown in her use of peer teaching and assessment. Instead of competing against one another students help each other to become healthier, physically active individuals.

Dani single handedly organizes and runs her division wide Fit Run event every year! This cross-country race is the division's biggest elementary sporting event and Dani has been running it solo ever since their PE consultant position was cut. Due to the huge number of students participating two races have to occur, making this a two day event. Dani is not given time to plan, organize, or run these races, all of this is done on her own time. Dani does all this for so many people because she values physical education and how it encourages a healthy, active lifestyle.

In her PE community of practice, Dani has become known as the go-to person for assessment. Dani uses a variety of strategies, tools, and opportunities when it comes to assessing. Checklists, peer assessment, peer teaching, class performances, anecdotal notes, feedback, and rubric are a few examples of ways Dani documents and has students highlight their learning in PE.


Edyta Bassier
Central Peel Secondary School
Brampton, Ontario

Edyta Bassier has exemplified steadfast dedication to Health and Physical Education (HPE) for an impressive span of over 15 years, establishing herself as an enduring stalwart in the field. Her commitment extends far beyond the mere impartation of athletic skills, as she passionately strives for the holistic development of her students. In her capacity as a coach for Girls Flag Football, Volleyball, Basketball, and Soccer, Edyta not only imparts essential athletic skills but also instills fundamental values of teamwork, resilience, and fair play. Her coaching philosophy transcends the confines of the sports arena, emphasizing character-building aspects crucial for the overall growth of her students. Edyta's profound commitment to equity is evident in her efforts to create an inclusive environment where every student, regardless of background, feels valued and supported. Edyta's leadership is prominently displayed through her involvement in running the Athletic Council, where she plays an integral role in coordinating various sports activities and events within the school. Noteworthy is her instrumental role in organizing Family of School events, fostering collaboration and engagement with local elementary feeder schools. Through these initiatives, Edyta cultivates a sense of community and connection, contributing to a positive and inclusive school environment.

Beyond coaching and council activities, Edyta assumes the responsibility of coordinating umpires and referees for all home games. Her meticulous planning and organizational skills ensure the seamless execution of sporting events, providing students with a well-rounded and enriching experience that emphasizes not only athletic prowess but also the importance of equity and inclusivity. Edyta Bassier's multifaceted involvement across different facets of school life showcases her holistic approach to education. Her unwavering dedication to equity, coupled with her commitment to creating a positive and inclusive environment, leaves a lasting and meaningful impact on both her students and the broader school community.

Steve Ranni

Steve Ranni
Shipyard Elementary School
Sydney, Nova Scotia

Steve Ranni, a dedicated P-5 physical education and health teacher with over 20 years of experience, has profoundly impacted the PHE field in Nova Scotia. Holding two Master’s Degrees from St.F.X. in Education Administration and Curriculum with a physical education focus, Steve's academic achievements underscore his commitment to excellence in education. As a distinguished physical educator, Steve has made an enduring impact on the Cape Breton-Victoria RCE, teaching at various schools and actively engaging in coaching soccer and organizing sports tournaments for elementary and middle school students.

Beyond the classroom, Steve's impactful leadership flourished during his presidency of TAPHE from 2010-2014 and subsequent TAPHE roles from 2006 to the present. Under his guidance, TAPHE underwent remarkable growth, with initiatives like the TAPHE History Project, the Hugh A Noble TAPHE Hall of Honour, and the revitalization of the TAPHE Awards. Steve's vision and collaborative approach led to over 100 PHE teachers being recognized in the province, with fifteen provincial champions achieving national acclaim. Notably, he brought the 2012 PHE Canada National Conference to Halifax, solidifying TAPHE's national recognition. Steve's commitment to PHE earned him the Dorothy Walker Award of Merit in 2017, the highest honor from TAPHE. Continuing to lead in various capacities within TAPHE, he has served as a regional representative for the PHE Canada Board of Representatives and on the PHE Canada CoPT. In 2023, Steve received the TAPHE Teaching Excellence Provincial award, a testament to his exceptional and unparalleled dedication to the field.

Steve Ranni stands as a true leader and outstanding educator in PHE, leaving a lasting legacy in the communities he serves. Steve Ranni's multifaceted contributions, including his leadership roles, academic achievements, and commitment to community , collectively paint a portrait of an exceptional educator deserving of national recognition for his outstanding contributions to PHE.


About PHE Canada National Awards

The PHE Canada National Awards program recognizes those who exemplify excellence in our field and make an impact in their schools and communities. For more information, visit:

For media inquiries, please contact: 
Ellen Long, Director, Engagement and Knowledge Mobilization
PHE Canada
(613) 523-1348 x2342
[email protected]