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Laurier names outstanding teaching award recipients
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To receive a teaching award from a university devoted to teaching excellence carries with it not only recognition and prestige, but for the recipients of the Wilfrid Laurier University 2011 Awards for Teaching Excellence, it also means accolades from colleagues and students.
Peer and student praise abounded for this year’s award recipients for teaching excellence:
- Assistant Chemistry Professor Steve MacNeil – in the full-time faculty category
- Global Studies Instructor Edmund Pries – in the part-time contract academic staff category
- Biology Teaching Assistant Emily Macdonald – teaching assistant award in the graduate category
Assistant Chemistry Professor Steve MacNeil, who is also an undergraduate advisor for chemistry, has been recognized for his in-depth knowledge of organic chemistry and his efforts to use innovative ways to share this knowledge with his students.
In his nomination letter, Associate Chemistry Professor Kenneth Maly notes that MacNeil is able to stimulate students’ interest in organic chemistry by using a blended approach where he mixes classroom activities with online delivery of course material. This includes videos MacNeil has developed and created “to promote self-directed learning and improve student learning outcomes.”
“On a personal note, he is a role model for my teaching and an example that I strive to follow,” said Maly.
Letters of nomination support from MacNeil’s students frequently mention the efforts he takes to keep students engaged, and his ability to create an environment that caters to all learning styles.
MacNeil said his teaching approach is one that he has been working on for a few years, and will continue to hone.
“I’ve known for a while that lectures don’t always work for students, especially for organic chemistry at 8:30 in the morning,” said MacNeil. “Over the years, I have made attempts to include active learning.
“This award gives me motivation to continue efforts aimed at improving my teaching and increasing student engagement and learning.”
Global Studies Instructor Edmund Pries has been teaching at Laurier for five years, and has consistently received accolades for an approach that is open, engaging and supportive. He believes strongly in providing an environment where discussion and debate is encouraged.
“Dr. Pries makes it clear that everyone’s thoughts and opinions matter and that they should be shared openly without fearing what others may think,” said Alison Price, a student and co-nominator.
Co-nominator Andrea Mathieson remembers Pries taking his fourth-year seminar students out for appetizers after their final class.
“He asked about our plans for the future, and was genuinely interested in what each student planned on doing,” Mathieson said in her nomination letter. “He is truly a professor that cares about his students, and wants each student to do well and learn in his classes.
Pries said he has been “blessed with great students,” and feels privileged to have been able to be part of their learning experience.
“It’s very exciting for me to see the learning and the classroom experience as a whole life experience,” said Pries. “And if students are able to integrate that which is learned in the classroom into their life – that is the ultimate goal.”
Biology Teaching Assistant Emily Macdonald is respected by her students and colleagues for her approachability, innovation in teaching and the time she puts into mentoring and supporting her students.
“I truly believe she was born to teach,” Biology Professor Frédérique Guinel said in her nomination letter. “Emily has high standards; she is capable of convincing her students that they should go the extra mile.”
She adds, “She is always very professional, respecting each individual and caring about her/him. She is fair and easily approachable; her students know that she will carefully listen to their comments.”
As an undergraduate student, Macdonald was among 100 students named in the Rising Stars of Research competition held at the University of British Columbia in 2009. As a graduate student, she was conferred Canadian Botanical Association honourable mentions for the Ian and Sylvia Taylor Award (2009) and Lion Cinq-Mars Award (2010).
“Teaching is so rewarding,” said Macdonald. “I like seeing that I accomplished something and the students gained something out of it too. But I think you can also learn a lot from students.”
“So I’m spreading knowledge but also gaining knowledge.”
MacNeil and Pries will receive their awards at Laurier’s spring convocation in June. Macdonald will receive her award at the fall convocation ceremony in October. Photos of the award recipients will be placed in the Teaching Hall of Fame in the Bricker Academic Building.