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Teaching Excellence Awards
Howard Teall named full-time faculty recipient
Dr. Howard Teall, a professor in Laurier's School of Business & Economics, will receive the 2003 Award for Teaching Excellence for full-time faculty at the June convocation.
Since beginning his career at Laurier in 1985, Teall has taught a variety of courses covering both management and financial accounting at the graduate and undergraduate levels. In recent years, he has been particularly active in the MBA program.
As one of his students wrote in a letter supporting Teall's nomination for the award: "Howard was a godsend. There I was, with a whole string of preconceived notions about accounting and finance, and a fair bit of anxiety about the subject to boot.
"Enter Howard. He was able to wash away my fears and notions in the first class; he not only opened my eyes, he helped me to open my mind. In short, I learned a great deal in his class and had fun in the process. Yes, despite freely admitting the oxymoron, one of Howard's favourite things to do was to show us how to have 'accounting fun'."
"We try to make it fun," says Teall, who adds that one student called him "the Seinfeld of accounting."
It might be more accurate, however, to call him the Disney of teaching.
"It was something I read shortly after completing my PhD," Teall says. "We went to Florida for Christmas and one of the first books I read after my PhD was a biography of Walt Disney. There was a principle he used in creating Disneyland: If you want to keep people coming back, you need to educate and entertain them at the same time.
"That," says Teall, "is really relevant to what we do as teachers."
For example, "There's a line I use. Have you ever heard anyone ask the question, 'Is The Lion King worth it?' People find it humorous when I explain that this is actually a complex accounting question."
What makes it complex is that while you can calculate the cost of going to Toronto, buying tickets for the show, eating afterward, and maybe even the income you might have lost by going to the show instead of working on a project at home, you cannot factor in such things as time with your family and pure enjoyment. But in the end, the process used to answer the question is the same as you would use when calculating net income.
"Another reason why I enjoy teaching accounting is because what makes it relevant is its impact on people. Take the issue of outsourcing, for example.
The pros and cons of outsourcing can be very easily quantified in a dollar-and-cents manner, Teall says, "but the decision is far more complex than that. The part I want my students to see is the impacts on people, the market and strategy."
Teall says, "While I teach accounting, I see myself as a business professor first and an accounting professor second." Teaching people to look beyond income statements, to see the bigger picture, is "part of the reason Laurier students have won so many gold medals in accounting. Our students are business students first. This is more than an accounting school. We have more breadth."
While Teall is an accomplished teacher (last year he won the L.S. Rosen Award for accounting education from the Canadian Academic Accounting Association), it wasn't the career he had planned.
After completing his undergraduate degree at the University of Western Ontario, in 1977, Teall was hired as a lecturer.
"I almost didn't take the job," he says, but "it gave me the sense that this was something I enjoyed."
He left Western after two years, taking a position with Price Waterhouse while working towards his C.A. He decided to return to school after two years with Price Waterhouse, despite a tempting offer to stay with the firm.
Teall says he has had many mentors over the years, including high-school teacher Arn Stover (a Waterloo College graduate), Western's John Nicholson ("in terms of style and linking accounting to the world; he had a great impact on how accounting could be taught"), the late Glenn Carroll, one of the founders of Laurier's SBE. and Laurier business prof Tupper Cawsey who, during one Laurier Day lecture to prospective students, took pains to have the high-school visitors get involved in the discussion. One of those students was Howard Teall.
In addition to being a skilled teacher, Teall is an active writer. Early in his career, "I didn't appreciate the importance of the research element. But to be a good teacher you have to have a good appreciation of the research side, and contribute to the growth of the body of knowledge in your field."
In addition to being the author or co-author of numerous academic papers, Teall is a co-author of the Canadian editions of three major accounting textbooks.
Wilfrid Laurier University