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Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Arts
December 22, 2014
 
 
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Laurier names recipients of 2014 Awards for Teaching Excellence

Apr 30/14

Each year, Wilfrid Laurier University honours outstanding teachers with Awards for Teaching Excellence

Those recognized by the Awards for Teaching Excellence for 2014 are: 

  • Ken Maly, associate professor, Department of Chemistry (full-time faculty category)
  • Terry Sturtevant, instructor and lab coordinator, Department of Physics & Computer Science (part-time contract academic staff category)
  • Mike McCleary, PhD candidate, Department of English and Film Studies (Teaching Assistant Award of Excellence)  

“The thing that stands out to me about each of these extraordinary teachers is the important connections they make with their students and their passion for teaching which in turn motivates their students and inspires in them a love for learning,” said Pat Rogers, associate vice-president: Teaching and Learning at Laurier. “This is the stuff of which teachers are made at Laurier.

Ken Maly, associate professor, Department of Chemistry

Maly draws praise from students and colleagues for his ability to handle a course with 500 enrolled students just as effectively as an upper-year lab of 10 to 13. Since arriving at Laurier in 2006, Maly has taught seven different undergraduate courses and four at the graduate level. Regardless of the class size, he makes sure his students get the one-on-one attention they need. 

In his nomination letter, Stephen MacNeil, associate chemistry professor, praised Maly for his commitment to enhancing his students’ learning experience. MacNeil noted Maly’s use of blended learning techniques, such as pre-class video lectures and online assessments, which led to an improvement in mid-term test grades and a noticeable decline in failure rates. He also commended Maly’s work with students struggling in his first-year Fundamentals of Chemistry class.  

“Despite the large enrolment for this course (approaching 500 in recent years), [Maly] offers one-on-one meetings to all at-risk students to advise them on strategies for improving their course grades,” wrote MacNeil. “Dr. Maly has shown a level of dedication to student learning that has been matched by few. He constantly strives to improve his teaching and enhance the Laurier student experience.” 

Maly is consistently among the highest rated instructors at Laurier when it comes to teaching evaluations. 

“Dr. Maly is always available to his students, whether it’s during his office hours or not,” wrote one student, who added that Maly was one of the main reasons he became a chemistry major after his first year. “He is always open to help any student with school work or just for general guidance.”

Maly says his ultimate goal as a teacher is to create a positive learning environment and instill in his students the enthusiasm he has for chemistry. 

“It is very rewarding to see students develop their knowledge and understanding,” said Maly. “I can't take credit for my students' achievements, but it is very satisfying to think that I may have played a small role in guiding them. This award serves as powerful motivation to continue to look for ways to improve my teaching.”

Maly will receive his award June 10 at 2 p.m. during the Faculty of Science convocation ceremony at the Athletic Complex on the Waterloo campus. 

Terry Sturtevant, instructor/lab coordinator, Department of Physics & Computer Science

Throughout his nearly 30-year tenure at Laurier, Sturtevant has been as much a student as he’s been a teacher. Since starting as a lab coordinator in the Physics department in 1985 and becoming a part-time instructor in 1996, Sturtevant has committed himself to improving as a teacher in whatever way possible, following a simple philosophy: “While I may not be able to ensure that every student succeeds, I can strive to improve my teaching whenever I have students who perform below my expectations.” 

In their nomination, Associate Physics & Computer Science Professors Nora Znotinas and Alexei Kaltchenko noted Sturtevant’s development as an instructor, helping his students master and apply complex course material. They also credited Sturtevant with helping to completely redesign several courses and labs, creating better opportunities for students to engage with the curriculum. 

“Over the many, many years we have known Terry, he has grown and matured into an exceptional teacher,” Znotinas and Kaltchenko wrote. “He has designed courses that allow students to master key concepts but also challenge them to demonstrate these skills…. As a consequence, he has gained their trust, respect and admiration and, not surprisingly is the faculty member students go to for advice.” 

Sturtevant draws praise from his students for several of his traits as a teacher, including his approachability, his knowledge of new technology, and instituting new teaching methods. 

“Terry inspires students through his teaching and uses his experience and enthusiasm to make concepts easier to understand,” wrote one student. “Terry, in addition to helping students learn, is always learning himself.  He strives to improve his own knowledge as well as his teaching techniques.” 

Sturtevant is intrigued by how students learn and this, combined with the joy he gets out of seeing his students become confident in the skills they’ve developed, is a large part of what drives him to continually improve as a teacher. 

“All of my successes have come from constantly revising, so that over time there is slow but steady improvement,” said Sturtevant. “All it takes is patience and a willingness to keep trying.”

Sturtevant will receive his award June 10 at 2 p.m. during the Faculty of Science convocation ceremony at the Athletic Complex on the Waterloo campus. 

Mike McCleary, PhD candidate, Department of English and Film Studies

Whether it’s in his teaching or his research, McCleary’s passion for the material he studies is clear. Since arriving at Laurier in 2011 to complete his master’s degree, McCleary has won the Faculty of Arts’ top master’s student gold medal, co-founded the Graduate Students of English and Film Studies Association, co-organized two annual Tri-University Graduate Symposia and given a number of presentations and guest lectures. 

But what’s equally impressive is the way that passion rubs off on his students. In his nomination letter, Russell Kilbourn, associate English and Film Studies professor and McCleary’s PhD supervisor, lauded the connection McCleary forms with his students and his ability to instill in them a love of learning. 

“Mike’s performance as a TA stands as an example to older, more experienced faculty (myself included),” wrote Kilbourn. “Mike is one of those rare people who not only loves to teach but is truly good at it; a teacher whose example convinces undergraduates to become Film Studies majors, to try harder and do better, to stay in university, to find direction and discover their own love of learning.” 

McCleary is highly regarded for his level of commitment to his students’ learning experience. He finds new, interesting ways for his students to engage with course concepts and makes himself available to his students. 

“Out of all the teaching assistants I’ve learned from in my experience at Laurier, he was the most supportive, dedicated and well-versed in the content of his teaching,” wrote a current student. 

For McCleary, this award isn’t just an honour for himself, but also the teachers he’s learned from throughout his academic career.

“Winning this award has special significance for me, as I’m keenly aware of the great teachers who have supported and encouraged me,” said McCleary. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without the guidance of these teachers, as their lasting influence continues to inspire me to take the next step, to overcome adversity and to push to achieve just a little bit more. I’m so pleased that my professors, my peers and, most importantly, my students feel as though I’ve been able to provide even a fraction of the support and encouragement that I have received as a student.”   

McCleary will receive his award June 13 at 2 p.m. during the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies convocation ceremony at the Athletic Complex on the Waterloo campus.  

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