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Laurier names outstanding teaching assistant award recipients
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Recipients of the Wilfrid Laurier University 2013 Awards for Teaching Excellence in the teaching assistant categories were recognized for a strong commitment to their students, fostering interaction in their classrooms, and taking initiative.
Peer and student praise abounded for this year’s recipients:
• In the graduate category – Colin McLaren, Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education
• In the undergraduate category – Susan Shaw, Department of Physics and Computer Science
Teaching assistant award, graduate category Colin McLaren, Kinesiology and Physical Education
McLaren is a second-year Masters student and teaching assistant for graduate and undergraduate statistics courses. He is recognized for being understanding and sympathetic about the anxieties and difficulties that some students face with math-based courses.
In her nomination letter, Associate Dean of the Faculty of Science, Pamela Bryden, says McLaren is a highly intelligent, well-rounded person who has a superb lecturing style. She added that he went above and beyond to add to the pedagogical structure of the class, and to make statistical theory and procedures straightforward.
“He was able to reach each and every student and provide them with help, feedback, answers, and concepts for further thought,” said Bryden.
McLaren says he likes to take a student-centred approach to teaching and try to be as accommodating as possible. He also recognizes the anxiety that statistics-based courses can cause and creates plans for students to follow.
“Each student is unique, but by sitting down and creating a personalized series of steps, a routine of sorts, for the student to follow, any statistics question suddenly becomes easier to understand and solve,” he said.
McLaren plans to pursue his PhD, and credits the trust and opportunities he received at Laurier for helping to build his teaching experience.
“Just having the trust of my professors and the chance to try different teaching styles was very important to me and my learning process,” he said. “Teaching is something that is very important to me and it’s exciting to know the effort and work you put in is making a difference.”
McLaren will receive his award June 7 at 2 p.m. during the graduate and post-doctoral studies convocation ceremony in Waterloo.
Teaching assistant award, undergraduate category Susan Shaw, Physics and Computer Science
Shaw, an undergraduate in Laurier’s Department of Mathematics, has been a teaching assistant in Physics and Computer Science for the last four years. She is recognized for her solid knowledge of the subject, and the extra work she puts into her role.
In her nomination letter, Nora Znotinas, chair of Physics and Computer Science, says Shaw’s dedication to the student learning experience is outstanding.
“My introduction to Susan was when I walked by a lab packed with animated students taught by an IA (instructional assistant) during a time when the lab should have been empty,” writes Znotinas. “What was happening? Who was this person? It was Susan running her popular tutorial on improving lab reports.”
In his nomination letter, Physics Lab Co-ordinator Terry Sturtevant said Shaw often takes the initiative to make changes that she believes will help her students. Shaw schedules help sessions for students after they receive drafts of their lab reports, and does this on her own time. She also invites all of the students in the course to the sessions, not just the students in her own lab sections.
“Students find these sessions very helpful, and Susan has also made one of her own lab reports for a different experiment available on the lab web page as a sample lab report,” writes Sturtevant. “Susan…is a model of professionalism.”
Shaw says her approach is very hands-on. She knows how important it is that students can write a proper lab report because they will have to do it throughout their academic careers, so she is happy to make time to help her students get an A.
Shaw says she has always wanted to be a teacher.
“I was extremely happy and excited to win this award,” said Shaw. “It makes me feel that I’ve almost achieved my goal of being a teacher.”
Shaw will receive her award June 5 at 2 p.m. during the Faculty of Science convocation ceremony in Waterloo.