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Honorary degree citation - Velma Weeks Barker

By: Ellen Jacobs, June 1993

Mr. Rector, I have the honour to present to you Velma Weeks Barker, an outstanding practitioner of early childhood education and an exceptional mentor of young teachers.

Velma Weeks Barker has devoted the past 50 years of her life to the education of young children in Montréal. She graduated from the Canadian Kindergarten Institute in 1945 and then studied in Boston with one of North America's foremost early childhood educators, Dr. Abigail Adams Eliot. In 1949, Ms. Weeks graduated from Dr. Eliot's Nursery Training School of Boston (now known as the Eliot Pearson Department of Child Study of Tufts University) and returned to Montréal where she established the highly regarded preschool program at the Hampton NDG YMCA.

Mme Weeks est renommée pour son amour des enfants et son aptitude à les éduquer dès leurs toutes premières expériences à l'école, pour sa capacité à aider les parents à comprendre et à surmonter les problèmes d'éducation des enfants et, enfin, pour son habileté à amener les futurs enseignants à se mettre à l'écoute des besoins de chacun des enfants qu'ils auront à côtoyer tout au long de leur carrière. Velma has designed programmes for children which meet their needs and interests and encourages them to move beyond the familiar to explore new and interesting challenges. She nourishes their sense of wonder, values their unique perspectives and stimulates their creativity. Her child centred programmes were developmentally appropriate well before these concepts were in vogue.

Velma has always believed strongly in the mentoring system. Her classroom has always been open to student teachers from CEGEP and university Early Childhood Education programmes. Non seulement Velma Weeks est-elle elle-même un véritable modèle d'enseignante mais, chose rare, elle possède l'art d'inculquer des notions fondamentales avec chaleur et sensibilité de manière que ses étudiants se sentent informés et jamais jugés.

Ms. Weeks' leadership in the field of Early Childhood Education has been recognized this past decade with national awards. In 1983 she received the Bothwell-Smith Award for Excellence in Early Childhood Education and in 1992, she received the Elks of Canada Academic Achievement Award.

Nineteen ninety-three marks Velma Weeks' 44th year of teaching young children, student teachers and parents. She has imparted to two generations a wisdom which is reflected in Robert Fulghum's simple credo "All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten".

Mr. Rector, it is a privilege to present to you, on behalf of the Senate and by the authority of the Board of Governors, Velma Weeks Barker, so that you may confer on her the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

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