Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, friends. I am so pleased to be here today to congratulate and honor our award-winning educators and support staff, and our leaders in education. I want to begin by telling you a story.

A while back I was in the community of Amherstburg, just outside of Windsor, and it was a P.D Day (Professional Development Day). So, the kids were in an arena which I happened to be visiting, and they were skidding around in the hockey arena, and a group of grade five girls came to say hello to me, and I was with their local MPP. So, I understand that we teach provincial government in grade five. So, I turned to the girls and I said, "Do you know this man's name?" It was his local MPP, right, and this one girl, who was more brash than the others and quickly became the ring leader, she looks up at me and says with some authority, "Nope!"
Then I said, "Well, do you know my name?"
Same girl: "Nope!" Then she looks up at me and says, "Do you know MY name?" I love that confidence and that direct honesty, and I am grateful for the role that all of you play in developing those qualities and so many other good qualities in our children.

Let me tell you why I created the Premier's Awards for Teaching Excellence. I believe the single, most important thing that we can do to build a caring society and a strong economy, the single most important thing that we can do to nurture responsible, engaged citizens who care about others (whether those others are in their community or on the other side of the world), the single most important thing we can do to build a powerful work force to create the wealth we need for Ontarians to enjoy a high standard of living (and so that together we can support our schools and our hospitals), the single most important thing we can do for ourselves and our children, is to give them the most wonderful, high quality, publicly funded education.

Education is the foundation for a child's future success and fulfillment. It's how we help all our children achieve their potential and become the best that they can be, and there's one more thing that drives me to keep improving education for our kids: personal experience.

In my family, we owe everything to education. See, on my dad's side, his mom (my grandmother), was married at the age of 16. She had her grade eight education. She married a man who was 32. He had his grade eight education. On my mom's side, when she was still quite young (she had four sisters), one day her father left and never came back. So, my grandmother (my mother's mom) got a job cleaning other people's houses, and she had very little formal education herself.

Now, I'm standing here tonight, two generations later, speaking to you as Premier in the greatest province, in the best country in the world. That speaks to the power of education. Not money, not influence, not heritage. Education. That's why I am so deeply committed to education. It gives everyone - all of us, a chance. Education is the door way to opportunity, but - and this brings me to our honorees - we all need help getting through that doorway. We need people who devote themselves to our learning, people who guide us, encourage us, nurture us, challenge us, open our minds and hearts to all the possibilities.

Today, we're celebrating the best of those people. We're celebrating excellence in education. Excellence among our teachers, our support staff, and our education leaders.

It's been said, that teachers effect eternity. You never know where your influence will end.

To all our award winners, thank you for being such good teachers, and you are all teachers. Whether you stand in front of a classroom or not, by being outstanding role models, you are teaching the rest of us. You are a powerful, positive influence in education, and because of your dedication, your commitment, your devotion, our children and our province are assured of a bright and shining future.

Congratulations to all our award winners, and thank you so much for all your good work. Thank you.

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