All Posts Tagged With: "Canada’s Best Teachers"
Shelagh Crooks earns a 3M National Teaching Fellowship
Shelagh Crooks, who teaches philosophy and education at Saint Mary’s University, is a 3M National Teaching Fellowship recipient for 2013. Maclean’s On Campus is profiling all 10.
When Shelagh Crooks started teaching first-year philosophy students, she’d give them something to read and then ask, “what did you think?” She was expecting them to defend the author’s position, refute it, or identify passages that confused them. Instead she got mostly blank stares.
“They didn’t know how to read critically and ask, ‘What is this person’s position? What evidence has he put forward for that position? Is that evidence sufficient to justify what he’s saying?’,” she explains. “They [didn't] really know how to read.”
Simon Ellis earns a 3M National Teaching Fellowship
Simon Ellis, a wood science professor and director of the Wood Products Processing program at the University of British Columbia, is a 3M National Teaching Fellowship recipient for 2013. Maclean’s On Campus is profiling all 10 recipients.
Simon Ellis says the esoteric discipline of wood science “chose him.” As a teenager in England, he liked the idea of predicting the world through science, so he planned to be a meteorologist. That was, of course, until he learned about forensic sciences. When he realized he couldn’t stomach handling dead bodies, he turned to horticulture. That morphed to forestry after he realized that trees are the biggest plants of all.
With his mind made up, he applied to Bangor University in Wales. “I went for an interview and a lot of people up there said, ‘they’re going to try and get you to do this wood science course. Not enough people are on that course.’” The interviewer did just that and Ellis discovered his passion.
Wood science is “a range of sciences applied to one beautiful material,” he says. Now, as a professor and administrator of the Wood Products Processing program, he passes down his appreciation for wood. The program, a fusion of science, engineering and business, is about marketing wood products, which he believes is best done by those who truly appreciate trees.
Getting people excited about wood isn’t easy, but it’s something Ellis enjoys. “I’m very energetic,” he says. “I think most students would agree that enthusiasm is contagious,” he adds. “When I give some of the examples of the wonderful structures of wood, students get engaged.”
One way he achieves this is with visual aids. They include a bunch of drinking straws wrapped together with tape, which illustrates the basic structure of wood. He also brings in little pieces of wood that appear identical to students until they perform an experiment. They’re asked to try and break both pieces with a hammer. One is regular wood and the other is compression wood, a material the tree quickly produces to push itself back up straight when it’s leaning.
“What’s surprising to [students] is that the regular wood usually doesn’t break,” he says, “but the compression wood fails easily.” The demonstration helps students see compression wood is too brittle for building and that wood is “very good for doing what the tree wants it to do,” but is not always great for human purposes.
To Ellis, it’s beautiful to behold. “If you look at some of this intricate cell wall architecture with an electron microscope, they’re just works of art as far as I’m concerned,” he says. “I have a couple textbooks on my shelf that are really just photographs of wood and they’re as good a coffee table book as anyone could have.”
June Larkin earns 3M National Teaching Fellowship
June Larkin, a lecturer in Women and Gender Studies and Equity Studies and vice-principal of New College at the University of Toronto, is a 3M National Teaching Fellowship recipient for 2013. Maclean’s On Campus is profiling all 10.
Before June Larkin ever attended a university class, she was engrossed in the intricacies of social justice as a primary-school teacher.
As a “mature student” balancing her undergraduate studies in psychology, feminist studies and education with her teaching job, she saw firsthand the interplay between gender and social equality on the playground as the children fought, played and formed peer groups. When she went on to do her PhD, she used her background as a teacher to write her doctorate about sexual harassment in high schools. “Working as a teacher was one of the things that attracted me to equity studies,” she says, “Now, as a professor, I have always tried to bridge theoretical concepts with practical, community-based application.”
Darren Dahl earns a 3M National Teaching Fellowship
Darren Dahl, a professor and associate dean of the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia, is a 3M National Teaching Fellowship recipient for 2013. Maclean’s On Campus is profiling all 10 in the coming weeks.
“I don’t use technology,” says University of British Columbia professor Darren Dahl of his creativity course. “Technology is great for some topics, but I can engage at a much higher level without it.”
To show he’s serious, any student who opens his or her computer or whose phone rings during class must donate $100 to charity. His own phone once went off. “Boom. $100 in the pot,” he says.
It keeps students focused on discussions that Dahl referees. It also leaves time for plenty of games. His focus on keeping students engaged is one of the reasons he was awarded one of 10 prestigious 3M National Teaching Fellowships for 2013.
Kim Fordham Misfeldt earns 3M Teaching Fellowship
Kim Fordham Misfeldt, a professor of German and the Humanities Chair at the Augustana Campus of the University of Alberta, is a 3M National Teaching Fellowship recipient for 2013. Maclean’s On Campus is profiling all 10 recipients.
As an undergraduate student at the University of Saskatchewan, Kim Fordham Misfeldt dabbled in French, German and Norwegian. But is wasn’t until she taught her first German class as a master’s student that she witnessed the transformative effect learning a foreign language could have on a student. She has not stopped teaching since.
“A new language can be an invaluable tool,” she says, “but language is also a physical experience, and an emotional experience, and I try to incorporate that into my classes.”
Colin Laroque earns a 3M National Teaching Fellowship
Colin Laroque, a Geography and Environment professor at Mount Allison University, is a 3M National Teaching Fellowship recipient for 2013. Maclean’s On Campus is profiling all 10.
Growing up in inner-city Saskatoon, the outdoors was always a refuge for Colin Laroque. While he witnessed substance abuse and tensions between the First Nations community and police in his day-to-day life, the weekends were an escape. Out on the family farm, Laroque, a Métis, and his elders would track a fox through the snow, go fishing and explore the forest. “That’s how they taught me and that’s how I learned the sights, the smells, the feel for things,” he says.
Joan Conrod earns 3M National Teaching Fellowship
Joan Conrod, a professor of accounting at Dalhousie University, is a 3M National Teaching Fellowship recipient for 2013. Maclean’s On Campus is profiling all 10 in the coming weeks.
Who knew that “consolidation” could actually be a student’s favourite course? But that’s the Joan Conrod effect. Students of Conrod, a professor of accounting, have admitted to loving the technical nitty-gritty that is accounting. Leanne McCarvill, now a chartered accountant, once wrote in a note to Conrod: “Two years ago when I took my first course I was scared of you, and now I can’t imagine not seeing you every week.”
Conrod calls that one of her most memorable compliments. “I think one of the things I am most proud of is I teach really hard courses, really technical, and my students go on to harder things,” she says. “My job is to make sure that not only do they understand the content, but they enjoy it.”
Heather Zwicker earns a 3M National Teaching Fellowship
Heather Zwicker, a professor of English and Film Studies turned Vice-Dean of Arts at the University of Alberta, is a 3M National Teaching Fellowship recipient for 2013. Maclean’s On Campus is profiling all 10 in the coming weeks.
It was 2003 and Zwicker had taken a six-month teaching position in Hawaii when it dawned on her that she knew more about the culture of Honolulu than that of her hometown Edmonton.
When she got back to the University of Alberta, she put together a senior-level course that focused on the city’s history and arts scene.
It was difficult at first, because there weren’t many published works about Edmonton.
“That’s when I realized that the other part of the course had to be getting students into the city,” she says. She had them tour the campus, taking in the history of the university, and go for walks and transit rides, recording everything they noticed. Based on their observations, they created unique maps of the city using soundscapes and video. “It was really fantastic. The students’ work was amazing,” she says, adding one project was submitted to a film festival.
Mark Goldszmidt earns 3M National Teaching Fellowship
Mark Goldszmidt, a professor at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at Western University, is a 3M National Teaching Fellowship recipient for 2013. Maclean’s On Campus is profiling all 10 in the coming weeks.
In 1999, when Mark Goldszmidt was a postgraduate medical student at Western, he took a one-day course on teaching with Dr. Wayne Weston. “At the end of the workshop he stuck around,” says Weston, an emeritus professor of family medicine, “and had a lot of insightful questions and suggestions.”
It was the beginning of more than a decade of collaboration between the two, and a classic Goldszmidt move. “I always see the gaps, and the ways it could be better,” says Goldszmidt, an associate professor of medicine who teaches a spectrum of students, from undergraduates to faculty. He has revamped other classes, created new ones, and when he saw a bigger need for innovation in medical education, he helped found the Centre for Education Research & Innovation.
Jordan LeBel is a 3M National Teaching Fellow for 2013
Jordan LeBel, who began working in kitchens when he was 12 years old, was destined to be a chef. But his parents weren’t so sure. They persuaded him to take a hospitality management course instead, putting him on a career track that would include restaurant reviewer, author, and a renowned chocolate expert who colleagues and students call Dr. Chocolate.
Now LeBel, 44, teaches Concordia’s highly popular, one-of-a-kind food marketing class, where he shares his passion with students. It’s his enthusiasm for his subject—consumer psychology and the pleasure of food—that makes him a favourite among students and one of 10 3M National Teaching Fellows for 2013.
“There is just so much to learn about it from so many different angles,” says LeBel. “I want to open people’s eyes and teach them everything they can learn about food.”
Prof. Fiona Walton employs more than just empathy
“People aren’t fond of saying Aboriginal Education is going well,” says the University of Prince Edward Island’s Fiona Walton, “but there are many many pockets where marvelous things are happening.”
Walton’s CV is too long to recount, but there’s one central theme. This 3M National Teaching Fellowship recipient is dedicated to building leaders in Indigenous Education by focusing on doing more of the things that are going right.
Walton has taught students from many backgrounds in the Bachelor of Education Specialization in Indigenous Education at the University of Prince Edward Island, which she helped develop after years teaching in the Arctic. More recently, she’s guided the curriculum of the groundbreaking Master of Education Leadership in Nunavut.
3M Fellow Connie Varnhagen explains her approach
University of Alberta psychology professor Connie Varnhagen doesn’t always know what students will learn when they enter her classes—and she likes it that way. She wants them to discover knowledge on their own.
Here’s a story that shows what she means. In one class, she instructed her students to come up with a test to identify which of her two cats has a worse case of cerebellar hypoplasia, a brain disorder that causes the poor felines to tumble over when they walk. While trying to come up with tests, the class observed that both cats are left-handed. That was news to Varnhagen. Exciting news. “Most cats are strongly right-handed,” she says. Could left-handedness be related to the disease? The students jumped into the research literature to find out.
The result? “They developed better critical thinking skills and scientific literacy because it was something they discovered all on their own,” says Varnhagen. One went on to veterinary school and studied even more about it.
Prof. Adrian Chan makes time to meet all of his students
When systems engineering professor Adrian Chan began teaching, he’d meet many of his students after final exams for the first time. They’d show up in his office after failing the course.
“I’d always wonder,” says Chan from his office at Carleton University in Ottawa, “why didn’t they come in earlier so that I could help them?”
A colleague suggested he make an effort to get to know his students better. “I don’t know if it’s possible,” he told her, “some of my classes have more than 100 students.” The coworker explained that her classes had up to 150 students in them and she still managed to meet with most in the first few weeks. “It was almost like someone threw the gauntlet down for me,” says Chan.
Since then, he’s blocked off 10 minutes with each student—hundreds of them—at the beginning of each semester. He asks students about their expectations and about why they chose engineering.
3M Teaching Fellow creates equality in the classroom
The McMaster University political scientist insists that even undergrads are valuable contributors to the university’s production of knowledge. It’s a view that’s (unsurprisingly) popular with his students, who nominated him for the 3M National Teaching Fellowship that he won earlier this year.
Students can sense Beier’s penchant for equality at the start of his second-year global politics class. Instead of opening his course with a discussion of the 1648 Peace of Westphalia (widely considered the birth of the modern state) he begins with the Iroquoian Great Law of Peace.
This prof eschews flash-bang demos (but he is into peeballs)
Students are instructed to write their resumes.
“A large part of my role as a teacher,” says Lucy, “is not just teaching the subject, but teaching what the opportunities are and where to find them.”
Lucy is known for his research in chemical analysis. But he’s also known for helping students connect chemistry to their future careers. That’s one reason he won a 3M National Teaching Fellowship. On Campus is profiling the winners.
Without summer jobs in chemistry, Lucy might never have become interested in the field.
3M Teaching Fellow Sue Vajoczki shares her philosophy
Sue Vajoczki, Director of the Centre for Leadership in Learning at McMaster University, was an evangelist for experiential learning long before it became a buzzword.
Her field, geography and earth sciences, lends itself particularly well. “You can’t teach earth science without seeing and feeling the landforms,” she explains.
But Vajoczki thinks opportunities to learn outside of the classroom are too often squandered. ”Many people can think of the field trip where they got in a school bus, went to a site, were told about a monument, got on the bus, went to the next monument—and then forgot,” she says, “because there was no active learning taking place.”
Active learning takes place, for example, when students not only see a landscape and hear a speech, but measure it, draw it, discuss the processes that might have shaped it, and then consider the implications for human beings.
Vajoczki is one of 10 new 3M National Teaching Fellows who have agreed to share their teaching philosophies with Maclean’s On Campus. She believes that experiential learning—with appropriate preparation and reflection—can help all learners.
3M winner Toni Samek shares her teaching philosophy
Early on, professor Toni Samek asks her students this question: Is homelessness a library issue?
Students entering the Master of Library and Information Studies program at the University of Alberta, where Samek has taught for 18 years, come from fields as diverse as nursing and law.
They arrive not knowing what to expect.
But after the homelessness question, students forget their stereotypes about meek librarians.
Samek is one of 10 new 3M National Teaching Fellows who have agreed to share their secrets to successful teaching with Maclean’s.
A.R. Elangovan shares his secrets to successful teaching
Many teachers say that education is their calling. Professor A.R. Elangovan, of the Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria, has literally written the book (well, journal articles at least) on callings.
Naturally, his research caused a re-evaluation of the way he teaches Organizational Beahviour and leads as the International Programming Director of the school. Students have noticed, and so have colleagues. Elangovan is one of 10 new 3M National Teaching Fellows who have agreed to share their secrets to success.
Elangovan’s style might not seem radical, but if every business leader was taught the way his students are taught, it could have a profound impact on the world.
The Indian-born professor’s style was perfected a few years ago when he working on a paper with a religion professor about that elusive type of employee who doesn’t differentiate between “living life and earning a livelihood”—the type of employee who has found their calling.
Naturally, Elangovan turned the mirror on himself.
He realized that one’s calling does not have to line up with a job title—doctor, firefighter, singer or priest. A calling can be a core value adhered to in whatever you do—9 a.m. to 5 p.m. included.
“It took me a few years thinking about and doing research on this topic to finally realize that the essence of me, what’s driving me, is a very firm belief that everybody deserves a life of dignity,” says Elangovan. “The moment I started thinking like that, I changed what I do in the classroom.”
Most of Elangovan’s MBA students will one day be bosses. By helping their employees adhere to their core values—their callings—organizations are more likely to succeed. The job of a business teacher is to give students the confidence to build “enlightened workplaces,” he says.
To do so, he needed to move beyond simply imparting knowledge and encouraging students to apply that knowledge. ”I’m no longer just a teacher,” says Elangovan. “I’m a vehicle with morals, ideas and answers. I’m willing to step into [students’] worlds, which are full of doubt and messiness, and answer when they say ‘what would you do in this situation?’”
Other professors feel they must steer clear of articulating the path they would take in a particular situation, lest they impose their values on students. Elangovan doesn’t maintain that distance.
“I have to have the courage to say, yes, this is what I would do,” he explains. “I give them the ideas and concepts, but I don’t hide behind the ideas and concepts.”
Another way that Elangovan is pursuing his calling is through his role as the International Programs Director. He’s an evangelist for seeing world through different eyes “and having all your assumptions shaken.”
Canada is dependent on trade. It’s also a country where the most talented often grew up in another cultural context. Those are the types of ideas business leaders can see with international study.
They’re also the types of ideas that can lead business leaders to choose the path of greatest dignity for their employees—whether in Canada or in factories on the other side of the Pacific.
Elangovan’s goal is for 100 per cent of his students to spend a semester in a foreign culture. Only a small proportion of students ever study abroad, but at his school, 73 per cent now do.
Elangovan is living up to his calling, so that his students—and their employees—might live up to their callings too.
Ten of Canada’s best teachers honoured
The 3M National Teaching Fellowships are Canada’s most prestigious teaching award. Each year since 1986, 10 university faculty members have been recognized for their leadership and contributions to university teaching by the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. One professor, Marjorie Johnson of Western University, was profiled in our annual student issue. To read about how she engages kinesiology students, click here. Over the coming weeks we’ll be profiling the other nine winners right here on Maclean’s On Campus. They are:
Celebrating Canada’s 3M Teaching Fellows
Marjorie Johnson is just one of the ten 3M Teaching Fellows announced in the annual Maclean’s student issue, on sale this week. To see who the other nine winners are, click here.
Story by Gustavo Vieira.
A soothing guitar ballad is piped through the sound system, mufﬂing the chatter of a few dozen second-year kinesiology students; they’re waiting for anatomy class to begin at an auditorium at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont. A slide show reviewing the body parts studied in previous classes plays on a loop: the medial pterygoid, trunks of brachial plexus, the maxillary artery, and so on. Two minutes later, the lights dim; a clip from Grey’s Anatomy appears, depicting a blood-gushing patient being treated by a frazzled young medical resident struggling to contain the bleeding. The students go silent. It’s time for Marjorie Johnson to start her lecture on the intricate anatomy of the human neck. Not before she pulls up a photo of Steve Nash, the Phoenix Suns superstar, his neck’s veins, muscles and nerves bulging beneath his skin as he protects the ball from an opponent at a basketball game. “He’s one of my heroes,” Johnson later confesses, “so they see Steve Nash a lot.”