February 27, 2009
By Mark Ferguson
“I know all of the 3M teaching fellows the U of S has had,” he said. “They are the most generous teachers and I hope I can learn from them. ”
Singh says he is proud to be in the company of such elite professors, but wasn’t quite sure where they were going for dinner.
Prior to Singh, six professors at the U of S had won the award: Ernie Walker, professor of archaeology in 2007, Thompson, professor of sociology in 2005, Schwier, professor of curriculum studies in 2005, Len Gusthart, professor of kinesiology in 2002, Mel Hosain, professor of civil engineering in 1994 and Ron Marken, professor of English in 1987. 3M Canada has been collaborating with the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education since 1986 to award the prestigious teaching fellowship.
Also the recipient of the U of S 2008 Master Teacher Award, Singh is no stranger to receiving recognition for his outstanding teaching ability and his work with students, particularly as a teacher-in-residence, a program Singh initiated in 2000 whereby he, his wife and son live in residence. Despite the accolades for the program and his teaching, he insists that winning a 3M National Teaching Fellowship came as a complete surprise.
“To be included in a group of people that I look up to is a phenomenal feeling.” Singh is one of 10 recipients of the award this year across Canada.
Although he said he does not know any of the other nine 2009 winners yet, he has already read their bios and will get a chance to spend four days with them at Le Chateau Montebello for a scholarly retreat in November.
“What we all have in common is a passion about scholarship and teaching,” said Singh. “One of the threads many of us have is we are also outstanding researchers. I believe to be an outstanding teacher, you must be an outstanding researcher.”
One of the first people to truly inspire Singh was another 3M award winner and Singh’s mentor while he completed his PhD, Professor Alastair Summerlee of the University of Guelph. Singh said Summerlee taught him that “learning is an independent act and that if the environment is safe and conducive, then people don’t hesitate to ask questions.”
He added that Summerlee, who won the 3M award in 2003, insisted that every student’s ideas are different and that a teacher must first produce structure in the classroom before free-flowing ideas can flourish.
Singh still uses these lessons in his own classroom today.
“I put quite a bit of effort of laying out my expectations. What I expect from them is the same as what they can expect from me.”