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Hamilton-Wentworth teacher Sue Irwin wins ETFO Writer’s Award for book on Canadian women sports heroes

August 13, 2019

TORONTO - The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) has presented Hamilton-Wentworth teacher Sue Irwin with its 2019 Writer's Award for her book Breaking Through, which profiles heroes in Canadian women's sport.

The award is presented to an active ETFO member or a group of members to recognize published or unpublished works.

In Breaking Through, teacher and author Sue Irwin focuses on seven sports and the women who have made them their own. She recognizes in her prologue that when an athlete like hockey star Hayley Wickenheiser and her team mates win Olympic Gold, as they did in 2014, girls around the world are inspired to be like them. In a breezy, engaging style, Irwin tells the stories of Wickenheiser, soccer player Christine Sinclair, basketball player Kia Nurse, Olympian bobsledder Kaillie Humphries, rugby star Jen Kish and Olympian swimmer Penny Oleksiak.

Irwin also brings to light the story of four-time Olympians and sisters Sharon Anne and Shirley Firth, Indigenous cross-country skiers who faced down prejudice. There is also a chapter on Carol Huynh, who won Canada's first Olympic gold medal in women's wrestling.

Sue has won awards for her previously published work from the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). In 2013, The Hardy Boys and the Ghostwriter received a Nonfiction Research Award Letter of Merit. In 2010, Sue was awarded the ETFO Writer's Award- Woman's Program for His Stories Were a Real Snoozer. Safety Stars, published in 2015, won ETFO's Curriculum Development Award that year.

"Sue's book will inspire a whole generation of young girls to set their sights on a goal and find the confidence and perseverance to achieve their dreams. Models for girl's empowerment like these sports heroes are invaluable," said ETFO President Sam Hammond.

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario represents 83,000 elementary public school teachers, occasional teachers and education professionals across the province. ETFO's Building Better Schools education agenda can be viewed at