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Marshall Ward wins Teaching Excellence Award for contract staff
Marshall Ward has been awarded the 2007 WLU Award for Teaching Excellence for contract academic staff, which he terms “a huge honour for me” and “an amazing way to go out.”
Receiving the award is bittersweet, Ward says, because while receiving it is “an absolute joy,” it also comes at a time when the courses he teaches will no longer be offered due to the demise of the fine arts program.
Ward came to Laurier in the mid-1990s to study psychology. “I liked the show ‘Frasier’,” he jokes in reference to the television sitcom about a quirky therapist.
While psychology was interesting, and philosophy professor Dr. Rockney Jacobsen was “awesome” and “captivating,” it was a drawing course with Michal Manson that spurred him to change his life.
“It was like a lightbulb,” Ward says. Art, he discovered, “was what I wanted to do more than anything. So I changed my major to fine arts and became Manson’s teaching assistant.”
Following completion of his general BA at Laurier, Ward went to the University of Waterloo to obtain an honours degree, thinking he might go to graduate school. Instead, he became a teacher.
“I really stumbled into it,” he says. He would occasionally fill in for Manson when she was ill, and when she became seriously ill in 2002, then dean of arts Robert Campbell asked Ward if he could teach a drawing class.
“I felt like a deer in the headlights” at first, Ward says, “but it was fantastic.
“I tried to create a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere that made the students receptive to learning, to communicating with me, and communicating with each other. I made them get up and look at each other’s work.
“I got to know every student by name and I’ve stayed in touch with many of them. They energize me. They made me want to be a better teacher.”
“Marshall has distinguished himself as an engaged and passionate educator within the Program in Fine Arts,” program co-ordinator Dr. Penelope Ironstone-Catterall wrote in support of his nomination for the award.
“Art students are notorious in their tendency to resist criticism of their work and to lash out at those who would be critical, most specifically their instructors,” she continued. “Marshall’s stellar teaching evaluations, given this, are remarkable. Marshall has not only managed to provide the necessary balance in his teaching, but has also created a community of learners who are as excited about education as they are about art. This is no small feat.”
“As the class came to an end,” a student wrote, “I realized that I had learned more from Marshall in one term than I had ever learned about painting in my whole educational career. He really forged my love of art by encouraging me and supporting me in my ideas, as well as making class very fun.”
Ward is well known in the local arts community. His line drawings of nudes have sold well in Toronto and are displayed as far away as England and Japan. He is probably best known locally for his bronze at the Kitchener city hall that incorporates thumbprints from 1,000 Kitchener residents and 1,000 Berlin residents (Kitchener was known as Berlin until 1916).
He is also a filmmaker. “Behind the Robe” was about artists’ models. “Love Will Set You Free, Jay Semko: An Approach to Songwriting,” showcased Jay Semko of the Northern Pikes. Ward’s latest film, still in production, is “Live for Sunday,” a look a Ward’s childhood wrestling hero, Handsome Jimmy Valiant (a.k.a. James Valen, or The Boogie Woogie Man.)
Ward, who is a stay-at-home dad with two young children, will be teaching at Conestoga College in the fall. But he’s a loyal Laurier man through-and-through.
“I love this place so much," he says.
“This is a chapter (of my life) with an amazing ending... The last five years were a blast.”