Laurier science professor receives international teaching and mentoring award

A Wilfrid Laurier University assistant professor has just been selected as the first recipient of the Gail Jenkins Teaching and Mentoring Award by the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society (HAPS).

Richelle Monaghan, an assistant professor in health studies and biology at the Laurier Brantford campus, as well as the head of science programming in Laurier’s public health program, is being recognized for her work in educating students on the core concepts of anatomy and physiology.

HAPS aims to promote excellence in the teaching and education of anatomy and physiology and includes over 1,700 members from secondary schools, two and four year colleges, as well as universities and private businesses across Canada, the United States and around the world.

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The HAPS award recognizes a HAPS member who exhibits a passion for educating students through active learning strategies to help them analyze and demonstrate interest in anatomy and physiology. The award was created in memory of Gail W. Jenkins, a highly-praised instructor of anatomy and physiology

“I’m very excited about receiving this award,” Monaghan said. “It’s a memorable award after Gail W. Jenkins who was clearly very revered and very respected and I have some very big shoes to fill in even receiving this award.”

In receiving this award, Monaghan was recognized for her stance on how the classroom should primarily be student-focused as a way of achieving student success.

“My pedagogical strategies are all about trying to assist students in their achievement in the learning objectives so it’s just centered around the student,” she said.

As an assistant professor and recognized member of HAPS, Monaghan uses various active learning strategies, such as games and group activities, to educate her students on various topics surrounding anatomy and physiology.

Monaghan also uses non-traditional presentations, such as her “Just Dance: The Cranial Nerves” presentation, a dance in which she educates students on cranial nerves in the human body, to assist students in how they can learn about one of the most challenging topics in the field of anatomy.

“I owe great acknowledgement to my students who have taught me what works best in the classroom.”

“If you’re having fun you’re probably not anxious, and I think that the topics of human anatomy and physiology can create a lot of anxiety because there is a massive volume of knowledge that you need to know that is considered fundamental,” Monaghan said.

“If the course is about being at a level of having fundamental knowledge to go with forward and to more advanced knowledge it requires a significant amount of information to be covered so it’s [better to] have fun, reduce the stress level, focus on metacognition and assisting students with learning how to learn.”

Before coming to Laurier, Monaghan was a regulated health care professional for the province of Ontario for 15 years, where she worked on acute and chronic pain management.

Monaghan went on to study cell biology and parasitology at the University of Waterloo, where she also became a teacher’s assistant and instructor for their anatomy program. Once Monaghan finished her PhD, she got hired at Laurier in 2012.

This year Monaghan also received Laurier’s Award for Teaching Excellence in the category of early career excellence. Monaghan was recognized through this award for creating active and engaging learning experiences for her students.

In addition to her ability to engage students in anatomy and physiology, Monaghan also assisted in the establishment of the Laurier Brantford science program. She played a key role in setting up the William Nikolaus Martin Chemistry and Biology labs located on the Brantford campus.

While Monaghan received the award at HAPS annual conference general meeting in Salt Lake City on May 26, she will also be recognized by the university on Laurier’s Brantford campus at a reception on June 28.

“I am grateful to be in a position at Laurier that I get to work with, mentor, and learn from amazing students and colleagues,” Monaghan concluded.

“I owe great acknowledgement to my students who have taught me what works best in the classroom.”

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