TORONTO, Nov. 23, 2016 /CNW/ - The Toronto Heschel School is pleased to announce the recipients of its first-ever social justice Prize for Teaching Excellence 2016. The award goes to Erin Buchmann at the Kirkland Lake District Composite School in Ontario which took first prize for its "Indigenous Awareness" program. Second prize goes to Todd Clauer at Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy, a Jewish Day School in Overland Park, Kansas City, USA, for its "Upper School Social Justice Project". Heschel, a Toronto Jewish School, invited educators around the world — including public, private and religious schools of all denominations — to share how they bring social justice into the classroom through heritage, culture or religion. The call was issued in THINK Magazine, Heschel School's semi-annual educational thought publication, last November. Toronto Heschel is committed to encouraging today's youth to be citizens of the world by celebrating and recognizing teachers who use their students' identity and cultural values to incorporate social justice learning as part of everyday school curriculum. The award received entries from across Canada, the US and Israel, and collected many inspiring stories of teachers and students committed to making positive change in the world. Social Justice Meets Critical Thinking"Social justice is a primary concern in our curriculum," says Greg Beiles, head of The Toronto Heschel School. "We created our Prize for Teaching Excellence to honour teachers like Buchmann who incorporate social justice into their teaching. We believe it's important to teach tolerance and awareness, so our citizens and future leaders understand that freedom, justice, fairness, and equality are the rights of all people." "We see that there is a special power that students sense when they are equipped to make change — big or small — in their communities," he says. "When their cultural teachings are the basis of their actions, we believe that there is a deep learning that become habits of heart and mind. We have certainly seen this in our school and we were very interested in seeing how other schools accomplish this."