Profs honoured for teaching

Each year, Wilfrid Laurier University distributes two awards recognizing professors for their teaching excellence.

This year’s recipients of the awards are psychology professor Eileen Wood in the full-time category and biology professor Fiona Rawle as a part-time contract academic faculty member.

“I’m very excited about it,” said Wood. “Even being nominated is quite an honour because there are a lot of good profs here at this university.”

The award is given to professors who exhibit excellence in various fields such as teaching, research, support for students and positive faculty and student recommendations and feedback.

“A lot of it is not just how you teach but why you teach,” said Rawle.

Rawle was selected to receive the Award for Teaching Excellence because of her innovative approach to teaching, her enthusiasm and the glowing recommendations made by her students and co-workers.

“I can give [students] information but it won’t make a difference if they aren’t excited about it,” said Rawle.

“We talk about a big picture idea and then once they get excited about that big picture then we dig down deeper for the facts.”

She pointed to her recent class discussion about how dolphins sleep as an example of this teaching approach.

Lucy Lee, chair of the biology department and Rawle’s co-worker, explained that Rawle has an ability to interest students in the course material.

“Ever since she started in 2007 we’ve had students … saying how wonderful she is.”

Lee also noted that in her course evaluations Rawle has consistently scored above the department mean, and in 2007 she was selected by MacLean’s as one of the Top 100 Canadian’s to Watch.

Wood also received her nomination and award for her exceptional reception by students and co-workers, as well as her dedication to education.

Co-worker Kim Roberts explained that Wood believes in teaching people of all ages, recently hosting classes to teach seniors computer skills.

“She doesn’t just see her job as turning up and leaving 50 minutes later, she clearly thinks about what can I do to help people understand what I am talking about,” said Roberts.

In the classroom, Wood uses everyday examples and stories as well as cartoons and media, such as YouTube.

Wood explained that with her degree in instructional psychology she focuses much of her research on how to teach effectively, incorporating what she learns through this research into teaching her classes.

“A lot of students who arrive at university … haven’t actually been taught the sophisticated strategies that they need to be able to do critical thinking,” said Wood.

“I just blend it into my lectures.”

Both Rawle and Wood explain that this award means so much because it is a reflection of how their co-workers and students view them and appreciate their work.

“Laurier has a great student body and so many great teachers and so that makes the award mean so much more because it comes from them,” said Rawl.

Wood echoed her feelings, saying, “It’s a big thing for me …teaching is really important and I think its really valuable that they have an award like this because it says this university values this part of a faculty member’s job.”

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