All Posts Tagged With: "seminar"
These innovative and dedicated professors are Canada’s best
Baljit Singh, a professor of anatomy at the University of Saskatchewan’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine, laughs about it now—but during his first year as a veterinary student, he failed the very course he now teaches. “I always tell my students,” says Singh. “I use it as a very inspirational example. I say, ‘Look, this is what happened to me in my first year. And I ended up teaching anatomy.’”
Singh, the one-time academic bungler, has since gone on to receive numerous academic distinctions, and is one of 10 professors named this year to the 3M National Teaching Fellowship. The award was established 24 years ago by 3M Canada in collaboration with the Society of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Maclean’s has been the award’s media partner since 2006.
These new fellows join an elite club that now includes 238 professors. To win, it’s not enough to be merely a great teacher. “We’re looking for personalities, for people who are authentic, who are passionate—and Baljit is a great example,” says program coordinator Arshad Ahmad, a Concordia University business professor and a 3M fellow himself.
Singh attributes his pedagogic success to the teachers in his own life. “They have built a fire in my mind,” says Singh. “This is the power of a teacher—once you are hooked up with an outstanding teacher, half the battles are won.”
The 3M National Teaching Fellowship rewards great teaching, and the teaching leadership required to share innovations with the broader educational community. Fellows are regularly brought together to exchange ideas, making the club an incubator for new teaching techniques. In June, they will gather in Fredericton; in November, this year’s inductees will attend a retreat at the Fairmont Le Château Montebello in Quebec. “We bring these people together to get to know each other as teachers and learn from each other,” says Ahmad. “There they are using their cutting edge stuff and sharing it, mentoring others to follow in those footsteps.” Here are a few that will be among them:
Glen Loppnow, Department of Chemistry, University of Alberta
“This is the extract from thousands of fireflies,” jokes Loppnow. Before a class of rapt first-year science students, Loppnow pours a beaker of bleach into a bottle containing the chemical luminol. The result, known as chemiluminescence—what a firefly does inside its glowing tail—transfixes his students. “No fireflies were harmed in this experiment,” Loppnow promises, before outlining how the energy of the chemical reaction has been converted into this blue, otherworldly light. That illuminating glow is a nifty metaphor for Loppnow’s brand of teaching excellence.
Loppnow admits he wasn’t always a great teacher. Had you caught one of his lectures a decade ago, he says, “you would have seen somebody whom the students considered mediocre and grumpy. I was rapidly getting a really bad reputation.” Caught up in the imperatives of research, Loppnow realized he was neglecting his real passion. “I was really denying my true self,” he says. “I really wanted to be a teacher.”
As a kid growing up in a tough neighbourhood in New Mexico, university didn’t appear to be in the cards for Loppnow. No one in his family had gone beyond Grade 12. But it was a high school English teacher, Susan Frye, who saw promise and encouraged him to apply to college. He got in, eventually doing graduate work at Berkeley and Princeton. Frye “changed my life,” says Loppnow. “That’s really the transition from my being a truck driver—which is what I thought I was going to be—to being a professor.” After the death of his father, Loppnow took an introspective sabbatical and realized what he needed to do to change his life—concentrate on teaching as much as on research. “I wanted to change students’ lives the way that my life had changed.”