Prof thrilled with teaching honour

Wilfrid Laurier University professor John Schwieter was surprised and overwhelmed by the news that he had been named the 2012 Faculty of Arts Teaching Scholar. “I was shocked, I didn’t think I would even have a chance,” said Schwieter. “Being only in my fifth year [at Laurier] I didn’t think I had enough experience or time here to receive the highest award at the faculty of arts level.”

This annual award honours a full-time faculty member who aptly and creatively integrates each of the profession’s functions; scholarly research and teaching.

The award intends to honour those professors who have made successful efforts to develop means by which integration can be seamlessly achieved.

Each year, the recipient of the Arts Teaching Scholar Award is decided by a committee of faculty members, headed by the dean of arts, Michael Carroll.

Schwieter, an associate professor of Spanish and linguistics and undergraduate officer for Spanish in the department of languages and literatures, was selected from a total of six nominees. He told The Cord of the process, “From what I’ve heard, it was a very difficult deliberation and choice to come to.”

Schwieter currently teaches a number of courses at Laurier in both Spanish and linguistics. “Five of the courses I teach I’ve created since I’ve been here at Laurier,” said the professor. “Linguistics wasn’t really here before I came.”

“This year alone I wrote eight recommendations for graduate school for linguistics, so it’s clear the interest is there,” Schwieter continued.

In addition to his contributions to the Spanish and linguistic programs at Laurier, Schwieter teaches “Study Abroad” (SP200), an annual spring course which provides students with an “all-inclusive, international immersion experience” in a Spanish speaking country. “I’ve studied abroad for four different semesters,” said Schwieter. “This May we’re going to Costa Rica and Panama, last year we went to Spain.”

It was his first trip abroad during his undergrad that prompted Schwieter to switch from a degree in Business to Spanish after discovering his passion for the language.

He went on to earn his masters’ at the Western Illinois University, later attending Florida State University to earn a PhD in Spanish language and linguistics. Marking a return to his original field of study, he is also a full-time MBA candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

“I didn’t take a break from full-time school for eleven years, summers included,” said Schwieter.

When asked which qualities are especially pertinent in the profession, Schwieter answered, “I think students need to know that you care. If they have a question and you don’t have time to answer it, that’s the biggest burst of their bubble. You have to make the time.”

A solid source of advice — considering the professor consistently receives excellent teaching evaluations himself, averaging 6.6 on the university’s 7.0-point scale

Recipients of the award in recent years include Lynne Shakinovsky (English & film studies), Karlijurgen Feuerherm (archaeology & classical studies) and Paul Tiessen (English & film studies). A $1,000 donation in Schwieter’s name will be made to the university or faculty prize, award or fund of his choice.

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