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May 2, 2016
For Immediate Release

WATERLOO – Each year, Wilfrid Laurier University honours teachers with Awards for Teaching Excellence to recognize those who have gone above and beyond to inspire and educate students. This year, the university divided the awards into three new categories to celebrate early career success, sustained excellence and teaching innovation.

The 2016 recipients include:

  • Award for Early Career Success:
    Vanessa Oliver, assistant professor, Youth and Children’s Studies program (full-time category) and
    Jennifer Long, instructor, Anthropology (part-time category)
  • Award for Sustained Excellence:
    M. Kristiina Montero, associate professor, Faculty of Education (full-time category) and
    Chris Klassen, instructor, Department of Religion and Culture (part-time category)
  • Award for Innovation:
    Lee Willingham, associate professor, Faculty of Music (full-time category) and
    Alicia McKenzie, instructor, Medieval Studies and Department of History (part-time category)

“These award recipients have in common exceptional dedication, passion and expertise,” said Deborah MacLatchy, Laurier’s provost and associate vice-president: Academic. “They exemplify all that is excellent at Laurier in teaching and learning.”

Vanessa Oliver, assistant professor, Youth and Children’s Studies

Oliver received high praise from her colleagues for the genuine care she displays for her students, regardless of class size. As one nominator pointed out, she has the distinct ability to create experiential learning opportunities by framing course content within the context of students’ lives. Oliver’s commitment to education and community extends beyond the Laurier classroom, where she and her students are active in various social justice and anti-oppression initiatives.
“I truly believe that the integration of classrooms and communities enables learners to apply their knowledge to the world around them, creating, through praxis, more engaged citizens and a more socially just society,” said Oliver.

Jennifer Long, instructor, Anthropology

Long has made transformative contributions to teaching and learning while in the Anthropology program, according to one nominator. Long reorganized the department’s approach to teaching fourth-year students, incorporating a “school-to-work transition” component to assist them in their job searches.

She is also contributing her expertise in intercultural competencies to the development of a new program option, Intercultural Understanding.

“The classroom remains a transformational space for my students and myself,” said Long. “I'm grateful to my students and colleagues in the Anthropology program for the opportunity to teach and learn here at Laurier.”

M. Kristiina Montero, associate professor, Faculty of Education

Montero is an integral member of the Faculty of Education, who is widely respected for her contributions to curriculum development and program design, peer mentoring and student success. Her nomination outlines how she is regarded as a reflexive practitioner, who is consistently seeking out ways to improve her own approach to teaching and learning. Montero is also celebrated for incorporating Indigenous teaching methodologies within the Faculty of Education.

“In my lifetime, I have been blessed with some great teachers and mentors who challenged me to always look at the familiar with new eyes and learn and teach with an open mind,” said Montero. “I hope I have inspired others to do the same.”

Chris Klassen, instructor, Department of Religion and Culture

Klassen’s approach to teaching at Laurier is recognized by her colleagues as enthusiastic, innovative and community-focused. She provides students with opportunities to fuse academic content with meaningful application through courses that contain a community service-learning component. A nominator from Laurier’s Community Service-Learning team applauds Klassen’s creative and innovative approach to the design of her service-learning courses.

"There are so many excellent contract faculty teaching at Laurier who are doing amazing work, and I am honoured to take my turn in representing that dedication," said Klassen.

Lee Willingham, associate professor, Faculty of Music

Willingham is known for his leadership in music education at Laurier. He is the founder of the Laurier Centre for Music in the Community (LCMC), a faculty-based research centre for collaboration, symposia, research and community development. He is a leading practitioner in the field of community music and facilitated the launch of Laurier’s Master of Arts in Community Music in 2013, the only graduate degree of its kind in Canada.

“It is a privilege to teach music, a subject that reaches people in many ways, and serves to enact justice, promote wholeness and lifelong learning. To be recognized for this rewarding work is a tremendous honour,” said Willingham.

Alicia McKenzie, instructor, Medieval Studies and Department of History

McKenzie is celebrated for her innovative approach to course design and her use of active learning strategies within the classroom. Her nominators applaud her creativity as a teacher, bringing the Middle Ages to life through courses such as Game of Thrones and Medieval Culture, Vikings! and Barbarians at the Gates: War and Society on the Medieval Frontier.

“I’ve been fortunate to have amazing students who have always been willing to step outside their comfort zone to try something new in the classroom,” said McKenzie.

Learn about Laurier’s other award-winning teachers, and how they engage students and inspire a love of learning.

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