April 23, 2010
By Kris Foster
“Teaching is fundamentally about learning,” said Ernie Barber, U of S vice-provost, teaching and learning told about 150 people who attended the Celebration of Teaching reception in Convocation Hall on April 19.
“University teachers are role models, scholars and mentors. As learners themselves, and as scholars who push the boundaries of knowledge, university teachers understand their responsibilities as educators, to pass on knowledge and discoveries to their students, to make the students’ learning experiences meaningful and memorable, and to empower students to be life-long learners.”
The influence of teachers is far-reaching, said Barber, referencing the more than 100,000 U of S alumni. “They (students) remember walking across the Bowl in minus 30-degree weather to attend class and learn from the brightest mind,” he explained.
“These awards were established to recognize not only our outstanding teachers, but also the many ways they reach our students. The impact our teachers have on our students is immeasurable and the impact our graduates have on the world is incredible.”
The one thing all great teachers have in common – whether faculty, sessionals or graduate students – is that they care about students and their learning. That passion comes through and makes all the difference in student experience.
Provost’s Award for Outstanding Innovation in Learning
Fred Phillips (Edwards School of Business)
Provost’s Award for Excellence in Aboriginal Education
Margaret Kovach (College of Education)
Provost’s Award for Excellence in International Teaching
Lisa Krol (the University Language Centre)
Outstanding Graduate Student Teacher Award
Serene Smyth (College of Kinesiology)
Outstanding New Teacher Awards
Angela Bedard-Haughn (College of Agriculture and Bioresources)
Jay Wilson (College of Education)
Ken Van Rees (College of Agriculture and Bioresources)
Ken Wilson (College of Arts and Science, sciences)
Lorin Elias (College of Arts and Science, social sciences)
Edwin Ralph (College of Education)
Barbara Phillips (Edwards School of Business)
Allan Dolovich (College of Engineering)
Len Gusthart (College of Kinesiology)
Barbara von Tigerstrom (College of Law)
Nigel West (College of Medicine)
Sandra Bassendowski (College of Nursing)
Jeff Taylor (College of Pharmacy and Nutrition)
Gary Wobeser (Western College of Veterinary Medicine)
Other recent teaching award winners—Master Teachers, USSU Teaching Excellence Awards, 3M National Teaching Fellowships and the Sylvia Wallace Sessional Lecturer Award—were also recognized for the significant contributions they make at the U of S.
Digging deep // Angela Bedard-Haughn
“Being a soil scientist is like having access to a secret world,” explained Bedard-Haughn “The soil profiles you see when you dig are like a great story or mystery to be unraveled. The soil we see at the surface is just one tiny part of a much bigger and more complex story.”
For getting students to dig a little deeper in the classroom and to think about what is happening beneath the surface, Bedard-Haughn received the Outstanding New Teacher Award.
“Teaching lets me share my enthusiasm for the secret world of soils and show my students how to understand the story the soil is trying to tell,” said Bedard-Haughn. “I want students in my class to develop a new awareness for the world beneath their feet, and to better appreciate how soils interact with the surrounding environment.”
It was during the second year of her PhD program that Bedard-Haughn discovered a passion for teaching that matched her passion for soil.
“I had been completely immersed in research for about 18 months and was feeling a bit burnt out. I found that spending time each week teaching basic soil science completely rejuvenated my interest in the topic and re-energized me. I realized the best possible career for me would include a healthy dose of both research and teaching.”
Receiving the award was a signal for Bedard-Haughn that the effort put into teaching is recognized by the university. “Because of the constant pressure to perform as a researcher, it can be difficult to allocate personal resources to being a good teacher. It is great to be recognized by the university, but the best tribute is when a student says ‘I had no idea soils were so important or interesting.’”
Courageous conversations // Margaret Kovach
“This award is deeply meaningful given my own experience as both an aboriginal learner and educator,” said Kovach. “It signals to Aboriginal Peoples, the university community and others that there is active support for advancing aboriginal education at the University of Saskatchewan.”
Kovach was schooled in Saskatchewan and knows first-hand the challenges that Aboriginal Peoples can face in the education system.
She also knows what a powerful role education plays in students’ lives, and the role of education in supporting aboriginal students. She returned home to Saskatchewan because she wanted to be a part of creating more effective learning environments for aboriginal students here.
“For me, advancing aboriginal education means creating a welcoming learning environment for aboriginal ways of knowing and being,” said Kovach. “It means creating a learning atmosphere where students can explore relevant and meaningful learning goals, and where courageous conversations can occur. Advancing aboriginal education serves social justice.”
Kovach received the award for her commitment to aboriginal students and her work in developing courses and innovative programming, both in the classroom and through distance learning. One aspect of Kovach’s approach that stood out was the use of indigenous methodologies in her research and the infusion of aboriginal perspective and content in her teaching.
“As one of many working toward advancing aboriginal education, my experience has been a whirlwind of activity,” said Kovach. “I feel very fortunate that I continue to wake up each morning glad to be an aboriginal professor”
Entertain, then educate // Nigel West
West, now 32 years into his teaching career and the recipient of the Provost’s College of Medicine Award for Outstanding Teaching, has spent a lot of time at the head of the class explaining things and finding interesting ways to engage his students.
“Marshall McLuhan saw no distinction between entertainment and education,” said West. “Certainly, to capture the attention of a large class at 8:30 on a winter’s morning, you had better have a compelling story to tell, and an engaging way of telling it.”
Beyond combining education and entertainment, West has the ability to make complex subject matter—respiratory physiology and cardiovascular physiology—easy to understand.
“If I am an outstanding teacher,” said West, referring to his most recent teaching accolade, “it may be because I am not the brightest. I have to explain complex mechanisms to myself in down-to-earth terms, and that makes it easier to explain them to students.”
That same humour, when combined with empathy, said West, is what enables him to connect with students. “That connection is important in teaching, especially when the age gap between you and your students widens every year.”
Entertain, then educate, said one of West’s teaching mentors. “The point was, without capturing a student’s attention you will never captivate their intellect.”