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Laurier names outstanding teaching award recipients
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Recipients of the Wilfrid Laurier University 2013 Awards for Teaching Excellence were recognized for a strong connection with their students, fostering interaction in their classrooms, and innovation curriculum design.
Peer and student praise abounded for this year’s award recipients for teaching excellence:
• Full-time faculty category – Rob Milne, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies
• Part-time contract academic staff – Duane Heide, Faculty of Education
WLU Award for Teaching Excellence, full-time faculty category – Rob Milne, associate professor, Geography and Environmental Studies
Milne was recognized for his extensive teaching dossier – 17 different courses and more than 8,700 students between 2003 and 2012 – the remarkable quality of his online course development, outstanding teacher evaluations, and his strong knowledge of ecology and environmental studies.
In her nomination letter, Margaret Walton-Roberts, associate professor of Geography and Environmental Studies, also made note of Milne’s connection with his students. She said the strong letters of support from current graduate and undergraduate students, and alumni, are testament to his ability to “inspire students and shape their career aspirations and trajectories.”
A letter written by a former student describes just that. The student describes Milne as a mentor who changed the course of his undergraduate studies.
“I had been just another student on the fast track to a Liberal Arts degree and teacher’s college,” writes the student. “Dr. Milne not only provided focus to my degree, he inspired a passion for geography. It is a passion that persists.”
Milne said he tries to relate to students on an individual basis and consider how they both want and need to learn.
"I try to simplify complex concepts by relating the course material to real-world examples that the student experiences in their daily life,” he said. “I also feel it's important that they look beyond their degree, beginning in first year, to consider future career opportunities whether it is grad school, teaching or in the environmental field."
He also believes in using online systems to facilitate learning.
"Online learning exposes students to a wide variety of learning materials," said Milne. "Even though you aren't in the classroom, it opens up opportunities for exchanging information in different ways."
Milne will receive his award June 6 at 9:30 a.m. during the Faculty of Arts convocation ceremony in Waterloo.
WLU Award for Teaching Excellence, contract academic staff category – Duane Heide, part-time instructor, Faculty of Education
Heide, who is also an elementary school teacher, has been at Laurier since 2009 teaching primary/junior mathematics instruction methods to Laurier’s Education students. He is known for outstanding small-group teaching, curriculum development, and an integrated learning style.
In her nomination letter, Donna Kotsopoulos, an associate professor and associate dean in Laurier’s Faculty of Education, says Heide also provides valuable support and feedback to his students. She said that while only five nomination letters from students were included in his nomination file, they received more than 20 letters of support.
“Many of the letters discussed how he has mentored and made himself available to students outside of class – responding within a couple of hours of emails at most, and coming in to meet with students on their days on campus if timing of a meeting is not conducive to the student,” Kotsopoulos writes in her letter.
In her letter, one student said she was nominating Heide for the award because “for a student who spent most of her life hating and fearing math, he has demystified the subject, and inspired me to push myself with my own personal development to be a better, more understanding educator.”
Heide says his teaching approach is very hands-on, getting students to use math manipulatives: blocks and volume containers to engage with the material.
“Some of my students come to the Faculty of Education with a fear of teaching mathematics, so it is my job is to support and inspire them to enjoy teaching math,” he said. “I also teach them methods they can use immediately in their practicums. I’m always thrilled when a student tells me that a lesson went well.”
Heide said he’s honoured to receive this teaching award.
“It is recognition that I’m doing what I should; that I’m doing my best to support my students at Laurier.”
Heide will receive his award June 7 at 2 p.m. during the Faculty of Education convocation ceremony in Waterloo.