Outstanding Teacher Award - 1998 to 2003

Previous Winners

2002-2003

 Adele Perry, HistoryAdele Perry
Department of History

“My teaching philosophy is probably better described as a teaching practice. I share my enthusiasm for the subject of history and work to empower students to interpret the past on their own terms. I try to build analytic skills, clear expression and critical exchange, and think this is best done in an environment of respect and support. I believe that exposing students to imperfections of historical scholarship is the most effective way of demonstrating both the challenges and rewards of studying the past”.

 Judith Owens, EnglishJudith Owens
Department of English

- teaches courses in Seventeenth-Century Literature and Representative Literary Works

“My aims in the undergraduate classroom are to show how and why literature – even literature from 400 years ago – matters; to teach students to read with an eye for both literary detail and historical context; and to foster intellectual engagement. Whenever I teach, I learn something new, from the material and from the students’ responses. I strive to create a classroom in which students are eager to participate in the stimulating critical conversation that is the study of literature”.

 Jila Ghomeshi, LinguisticsJila Ghomeshi
Department of Linguistics

- teaches courses in Semantics, Syntax and Syntactic Theory

“I believe that learning is a process rather than the accumulation of information and that it is a highly enjoyable one. I try to create an environment in which students can experience that process with awareness. I expect participation, sincere effort and politeness in the classroom. Beyond that, I love to laugh and encourage students to find the humour in what we do”.

 Louise Renee, French, Spanish and ItalianLouise Renée
Department of French, Spanish and Italian

“My goal in teaching literature is to act as a bridge between the student and the text. We take into account the historical context of a novel and the author’s known theories, but we always leave room for what the French call “l’inconscient du texte,” the idea that the text always goes beyond the author’s conscious purpose. This leaves room for insights and interpretations, and requires active participation (and work) from the student, who cannot simply regurgitate what he or she hears from the professor. At times we do a close reading of a single page; at others, we discuss wider philosophical issues. I always try to make a connection between the text and the student’s everyday life. I strive to point out values and presuppositions hidden in language and to challenge the things we take for granted in our society. As for specific teaching methods, I think the most important one is to wait – to give the students time to think about a question and resist the temptation to suggest a hypothesis right away. The most satisfying experience for me, as a teacher, occurs when students learn how to ask brilliant questions. If at the end of the course they ask me to recommend more books, then I know that my goal has been achieved”.

2001-2002

 Norman Cameron, EconomicsNorman Cameron
Department of Economics

“My field can be seen as a set of concepts or tools for use in thinking about economic outcomes. What students need to learn to become economists is therefore what the tools are, and then how to use them in practice. Textbooks are becoming better and better at helping students with the former. Most of my job is therefore best described as that of "thinking coach", to train them in the latter. Many students find application much harder than memorization, but they all appreciate the ability once mastered, and the coach that pushed, cajoled, and enabled them.”

 Robert Smith, EnglishRobert Smith
Department of English

“I do not have a formula or method for teaching. I see in the study of literature, in all its forms and genres, the potential to challenge students to enlarge and alter their sense of self and society, identity and meaning. I think the instructor is a guide who plays a fundamental role in communicating that potential. As a generalist, I keep revising my script, from year to year, so that I can continue to enlarge my own scope and bring a disciplined enthusiasm into the classroom.

“The theatrical rehearsal process is an excellent analogy for the work of the classroom. The director may bring a vision of the text, but the actors realize the various parts. While it would be naive to expect students in the classroom to be, like actors, full participants in the process, I find myself nevertheless trying to direct them to the place where free inquiry may at least begin. An effective guide must be a good listener. I find that listening tempers my expectations; literature reminds me, again and again, of the need for compassion.”

 Robert Finnegan, EnglishRobert Finnegan
Department of English

....teaches A History of Critical Theory, a half course devoted to theories of artistic creation and interpretation ranging from Plato to T.S. Eliot, as well as full-year courses, Studies in Chaucer, introductory Representative Literary Works, and Studies in Old English, the latter, say his students, “being one of the most difficult and demanding courses in the Department of English.” While Studies in Old English was not offered in the registration guide this year, he was persuaded by his students to teach it over and above his regular course load. According to his students, Professor Finnegan’s classes are a “successful synthesis of education and entertainment. The breadth of his knowledge is astounding: although he is a specialist in Medieval literature, he is fully conversant with the literature of every period, as well as literary theories both historical and contemporary...” They add, “...he is always kind, patient, and unfailingly generous in his dealings with students.”

Lorna MacDonald
Department of Linguistics

...teaches courses in Functional syntax, language universals, typology, first language acquisition; Tauya, Papuan and Austronesian languages, Cree. Her students says she is always well prepared and explains everything very clearly; also that “she has a knack for recognizing when students are having difficulty with material and is able to adjust her teaching to get the point across. Her tests were always fair and structured in such a way that you really had to know the material and not just memorize it to do well.” Her office door was always open, and she was always kind and friendly towards students.

2000-2001

 Costas Nicolaou, EconomicsCostas Nicolaou
Department of Economics

- says his usual advice to students is: "Since work-time occupies just about 50% of your conscious lifetime, it is very important to choose a career in which you do what you like. This way, you will be getting paid to do something you enjoy. There is no better deal in life than this!"

He has indeed followed his own advice, and says he wished this happened more often!. "I feel it is a privilege to have the opportunity to ignite interest in learning, and I enjoy this privilege very much."

He adds, however, "it was not until this teacher appreciation ceremony -- for which one of my top students, a Gold-Medal Winner, chose me as his favourite professor – that I realized how wrong I was about what students appreciate in a professor. I had always thought that my kids (be they just out of high school or ready for Ph.D. candidacy exams they are all 'my kids' to me) appreciated my presumably 'systematic' approach to teaching, as well as my teaching philosophy.

"How wrong I was! Student after student in that teacher appreciation ceremony stressed that the most important characteristics they appreciate in a teacher is to be seen as real persons, not numbers; to be given a helping hand if need be, not necessarily on the academic front; and to be treated with genuine care and respect.

"As I was listening to these bright independent minds repeating this theme over and over I thought 'well, I may be growing older, but I am always learning...'

"NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT, WOULDN'T YOU SAY?"

 Elizabeth Comack, SociologyElizabeth Comack
Department of Sociology

"As a sociologist, I see one of my primary teaching goals to be that of encouraging students to make connections between 'private troubles' and 'public issues,' between individuals' own experiences and the wider social, political and economic contexts in which they move. This is what C. Wright Mills referred to as 'the promise of the sociological imagination.'

"I often say to my students during our first meeting that my job is not to tell them 'what they think they already know,' but rather to expose them to different ways of making sense of the world around them and encourage them to formulate and refine their own sociological analysis. In this respect, theory is an important ingredient in any course I teach. As well, social justice issues are front and centre in all my courses, and one of my goals is to engender students' awareness of and concern about those issues.

"Because I have had the benefit – and the privilege – of having spent a good portion of my life studying and thinking about sociology, there is much that I am eager to share with my students. At the same time, however, there is also much that I can learn from them. The more we all take an active part in the learning process, the more all of us are enriched."

 Jila Ghomeshi, LinguisticsJila Ghomeshi
Department of Linguistics

"My goal in teaching up to now has been to try and figure out how to reduce the importance of my role in the classroom. I would like to create an environment in which students grapple with problems and come up with solutions themselves. I want my students to experience learning as a process rather than as the accumulation of information. Beyond showing them particular theories, explanations, and answers to problems in linguistics, I want to show them what makes a good theory or explanation or answer in general and what it feels like to create one.

"There are three things that I firmly believe and that form the basis of my evolving teaching philosophy: (a) humour is a great teaching tool; (b) people truly love to learn; (c) the search for the truth (the 'right answer') is a search for beauty."

 Susan Heald, Women's StudiesSusan Heald
Women's Studies Program

- felt she had been paid the highest compliment at the awards ceremony when it was said, "There has not been one class with Professor Heald in which I have not been intellectually and emotionally challenged--when I have not left the room without feeling passionate about my education, about feminism, about the world and my place in it".

"I believe that students need to bring their hearts to class, not just their minds. I want them to find a personal, visceral and emotional connection to the material, to care about the injustices and the triumphs we study, not just to be able to reproduce the 'facts' about them in a test or essay."

Professor Heald believes every student has the potential to be an outstanding student, though many choose not to be. She maintains that outstanding students are willing to see the connections between themselves and others, and are open to the possibility that the ways they have heretofore seen the world are incomplete and often unjust. Outstanding students are willing to change--their minds and their hearts. She feels fortunate to have had many such outstanding students in her classes.

This is the second time Professor Heald has been honoured at this ceremony; the first time was in 1995.

1999-2000

 Arthur Schafer, PhilosophyArthur Schafer
Department of Philosophy

- considered it to be a compliment when a student "complained" that his philosophy classes were regularly inducing a head-ache. Challenging one's own assumptions, as well as the views of others, thinking critically, analysing problems and solutions in depth, can often lead to perplexity (headaches). But there is no other way of learning to think philosophically. It can also be lots of fun.

Professor Schafer is a graduate of Oxford University. His area of specialization is applied ethics. Courses he teaches include: Ethics and Society, Problems in Political Philosophy and Problems in Legal Philosophy. He is the author of The Buck Stops Here, and co-editor of Ethics and Animal Experimentation. Many of his scholarly publications concern the ethics of experimentation on human subjects.

 George Toles, EnglishGeorge Toles
Department of English (Film Studies Program)

- teaches courses in the Art of the Film, Acting for the Camera, and related special topics: "I try to persuade my students that it is important to have a passion for something - not necessarily the subject matter of my course, but something. My ideal classroom situation would be one where students see what passionate engagement with material looks like and feels like, and why it matters. I never assign literature or films to my students that I don’t love. And once I’ve reached a point where I’m no longer discovering new things about a novel or film or play in my lecture preparation I believe that it’s time to change the syllabus and move on to other works which are still happily unsettled.

"Teaching is as much about productive confusion as it is about clarity and "arriving" at knowledge. My orientation is unapologetically aesthetic and humanist. If I help students to read narratives more closely and sensitively, to caress the details and ask better questions (not only of the texts but of themselves) then I’m meeting my goals as a teacher."

1998-1999

 Dan Albas, SociologyDan Albas
Department of Sociology

- "I view university education as a voyage of discovery. The professors and students who undertake the journey operate in an environment that has both an intellectual dimension and an emotional dimension. Concerning the intellectual dimension, we know that ‘Knowledge makes a bloody entrance’ - it never comes easily. Thus, professors and students operate most effectively when they realize that hard work and vigorous thinking are the responsibility of both parties. Emotionally, a positive learning environment is characterized by "identity protection" and the resulting mutual respect. In sum, I believe the most positive learning environment is one in which students and professors work to provide an emotionally supportive environment and set the highest standards for themselves and for each other."

 Irwin Lipnowski, EconomicsIrwin Lipnowski
Department of Economics

- who teaches Industrial Organization, is said by his students to be a professor who fosters an atmosphere of mutual respect between the students and himself and also among the students themselves. Students comment that everyone’s opinion is important in Prof. Lipnowski’s class, and students are always encouraged to ask questions in class and to seek his help outside class if necessary. His use of humour to illustrate a point and, wherever possible, to apply the theory that is being discussed in class to real world situations, is a refreshing change from the teaching styles of many other professors. He is cited as being a "great professor and a true gentleman".

Professor Lipnowski comments that he "strives to impart to students a realization that the existing body of knowledge is always a work in progress, continuously evolving and developing. Students should, therefore, regard our current knowledge as only being provisionally true - something to be accepted on an interim basis until such time as it is superseded by improved theories that are formulated through superior understanding. Instead of accepting current theories as the absolute truth students should, in the spirit of critical inquiry, carefully scrutinize the assumptions at the foundation of current theories with a view to detecting weaknesses and suggesting improvements. Students should, I believe, be encouraged to strive to advance our knowledge through critical and independent thinking."

 John Rempel, EnglishJohn Rempel
Department of English

- is described as "an innovative teacher who constantly re-appraises his own teaching and experiments with new techniques". A student said, "my first year introductory course with him was so engaging and stimulating intellectually that I simply had to come back for more."

Dr. Rempel joined the University of Manitoba Faculty of Arts in 1970. He graduated from the University of British Columbia and the University of Texas at Austin. He is a specialist in the literature of the Restoration Era and the 18th Century. In addition to teaching courses in his area of specialization, Dr. Rempel leads a seminar course for graduate students on teaching English at the university level.

Dr. Rempel is also a winner of the "Dr. and Mrs. H. H. Saunderson Award for Excellence in Teaching".

 Joan Townsend, AnthropologyJoan Townsend
Department of Anthropology

- whose areas of specialization include ethnohistory, ethnomedicine, and religious phenomena: spiritualism, traditional shamanism, and new religious movements, received her Doctorate in Anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles, and joined the University of Manitoba Faculty of Arts in 1964. Professor Townsend retired in 1999, after which she was honoured as Professor Emeritus.

Dr. Townsend stresses the importance of interweaving research experiences and anthropological data with their historical and philosophical antecedents in her teaching. It has been her goal to instill in students a critical sense of evaluation of materials while exposing them to a variety of intellectual positions and new perspectives. Her students have commented that "Professors excite and direct; they evoke critical thinking and scholarship. Professor Townsend is such a teacher".

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