Karen Chalmers is a retired secondary educator and technology specialist celebrating almost 40 years of dedication to her students, school and profession. Fiercely driven and independent, Ms. Chalmers left home at the age of 18 to pursue higher education, earning a Bachelor of Science in mathematics from the University of Ottawa and going on to complete additional master’s-level coursework in the subject. She began teaching for the Ottawa Carleton District School Board in 1966, working with elementary-level students before settling at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School, a state-of-the-art academy serving students in grades 9-12.
Initially motivated by her love of working with children and her passion for helping others understand complex concepts, Ms. Chalmers taught primarily mathematics during her first years in the field. At the time, computers had only recently been introduced to classrooms, and she developed an immediate enthusiasm for technology as soon as she began working with them. Soon, she took over technology demonstrations and taught the other staff at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School how to use computers, an experience she remembers as the genesis of a lifelong excitement for the instructional opportunities that creative technological integration could create.
Ms. Chalmers would dedicate the rest of her career to sharing this excitement with others: teaching 20 different computer and technology courses to students at all grade levels and overseeing the school’s technology equipment and programming until her retirement in 2015. With her guidance, Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School became a regional model for cutting-edge technology course offerings and classroom integration, and she was named a district-wide technology coach in 2012. In addition to hosting numerous educators and administrators interested in emulating the school’s offerings, Ms. Chalmers worked with individual students and staff to help ensure their success with the programs and ability to use their technology skills in a broad range of applications.
In 2011, Ms. Chalmers was named an Apple Distinguished Educator, a highly-selective, global award recognizing her decades of trailblazing work in making Ottawa schools some of the country’s most technologically-advanced. She considers the award to be a career highlight, and attributes her success to determination, a love of learning, and a critical emphasis on being at the leading edge of her work and her base of knowledge at all times. Ms. Chalmers acknowledges the challenges of being a pioneer in her field, especially in being a woman in a male-dominated specialty, and hopes to promote better access to and integration of new technologies in classroom settings for future generations of students.
As a part of her commitment to community development, Ms. Chalmers served on the Ottawa District School Board and Ontario ECCO, and volunteered to write and publish school and organizational newsletters for much of her career. In her retirement, she is an active alumni member of Phi Alpha Kappa and remains committed to helping promote technology access in schools while relaxing, working on her personal website, and enjoying nature.