Alyssa Koziol is this year’s recipient of the Kelowna Kiwanis Legacy Major Entrance Award in Education – an award accompanied by $11,450. Established by the Central Okanagan Kiwanis Community Service Society, the award is presented to a student pursuing the Teaching Children (Kindergarten to Grade 5+) pathway.
“I’m very happy and grateful to receive this award,” says Alyssa. “It is such an honor to be recognized by an organization that is dedicated to improving the lives of children one community at a time.”
Alyssa grew up in Whitby, Ontario. As an active individual with a passion for sports and getting outdoors, she knew she wanted to pursue a degree in health sciences, but hadn’t decided on a university yet.
“I came to Kelowna for the first time with Destination UBC. They offered a travel subsidy to fly potential students out, so I thought why not check out the campus – basically a free trip to BC, how could I turn that down?” she joked. “Then of course, I just fell in love with the city and the campus.”
The summer before she began her Bachelor of Human Kinetics, she lived with family in Edmonton and worked in the city’s Parks and Recreation department.
“I was a program leader for Green Shacks – it’s a full-day program where children and youth can come to their local park to play games and activities. It was such a fun summer job I came back the next four years!”
During the fourth year of her undergraduate degree, Alyssa decided to start working in the City of Kelowna’s recreation department – teaching and coaching toddlers to teens in hockey, t-ball, soccer and basketball. At the same time, as part of her degree, she began volunteering with Dr. Ali McManus in the Pediatric Exercise Research Laboratory. She volunteered in the lab throughout her last year, and when the opportunity to pursue her Master of Health and Exercise Science under the supervision of Dr. McManus presented itself, she jumped at the challenge.
“The research focused on how children were growing up in Kelowna, both mentally, digitally, and physically. We partnered with the Psychology department to assess elementary and middle school students within the Central Okanagan School District, and in total we gathered data from 346 youth.”
An outcome from this research was the launch of the website, “Young Kelowna,” which offers a collection of resources for youth, parents, and community members to learn about themselves.
While Alyssa enjoyed the research and the interaction with youth, it was her experience as a teaching assistant and mentor that ignited her interest in pursuing her Bachelor of Education.
“I really enjoyed my time as a teaching assistant, and initially I was thinking about becoming a professor,” says Alyssa. “But then I thought about my time coaching young children in sport development, and pursuing my B.Ed seemed like a natural fit.”
In recognition of her teaching support contributions, she received the Provost Award for Teaching Assistants & Tutors during the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 academic years.
Alyssa is looking forward to being in the classroom and starting to help guide elementary students as they navigate their early years through school.
“Elementary school is where students start to build their foundations, and are introduced to all these new subjects and topics,” says Alyssa. “There can be this look of confusion on a kids’ faces when you present them with a new concept, and then as you teach and guide them, you can see that spark in their eyes like, ‘oh I actually understand this!’ and seeing that spark is so rewarding.”