Western Teaching Awards

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Denise Jones
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Fostering ‘the free flow of ideas’
 
Winners of the top teaching awards come from varying disciplines and backgrounds - Arts and Humanities, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Health Sciences and Education - yet all connect with students in one important way. They have  lasting impact.
 
The awards set the standard for great teaching on campus, embodying excellence in classroom instruction, academic counselling and tutoring, thesis supervision, course design, curriculum development, preparation of educational materials, research on university teaching, and development of innovative teaching methods. These profiles were developed from materials submitted by nominators.  

Edward G. Pleva Award for Excellence in Teaching

 
Joyce Bruhn de Garavito
Department of Modern Languages and Literatures,
Faculty of Arts and Humanities
 
Joyce Bruhn de Garavito is described as a central pillar of her department. As the only Spanish linguist in the department, she has revolutionized teaching of the subject at Western, introducing the PhD program in linguistics and creating new linguistics courses at the undergraduate level. 
 
Bruhn de Garavito’s talents are considerable -- she has also taught in the Department of French, Faculty of Education and through Continuing Studies. She teaches a wide variety of courses and has earned a solid reputation as a mentor and leader among undergraduate and graduate students.
 
Bruhn de Garavito approaches teaching more as a vocation than as a job. It is clear she is driven by a passion for her students, and her selflessness is manifested in the fact she has been known to offer free English classes to students whose first language is not English.  Bruhn de Garavito has a wonderfully integrated approach to teaching, research and university service, and the word ‘genius’ has even been used to describe this outstanding colleague and role model.  
 
 
Andrew D. Krahn
Department of Medicine,
Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry
 
In teaching, Andrew Krahn says he tries to “take student input along with the curriculum objectives as the left and right hand of moving forward to improve what has been taught in the past.”
 
Almost single-handedly, Krahn has re-organized both the classroom teaching and case-oriented small group instruction in the Heart & Circulation course curriculum. An exemplary clinical teacher and mentor, what sets Krahn apart, according to students, is “his ability to simultaneously teach communication skills, integrity, and leadership. By his guidance and example, pupils become better clinicians and leaders.”
 
Besides teaching at Schulich, Krahn is also a hospital physician and active clinical research electro-physiologist. Mirroring his teaching approach, he extensively collaborates with colleagues resulting in productive internal and external research groups.
 
Krahn has also been a leader in medical education. His approach is directed towards ‘the big picture,’ his cheerfulness and collegiality leading the way.
 
Before winning the Pleva award, Krahn received many teaching awards including the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities’ Leadership in Faculty Teaching Award (2007) and the Douglas Bocking Award for Excellence in Teaching for Undergraduate Medicine (Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, 2008).
 
 
Kathy Obright
School of Physical Therapy,
Faculty of Health Sciences
 
Kathy Obright has been among the top Physical Therapy professors for many years. The only three-time winner of the school’s Teaching Award, she has developed an outstanding reputation for classroom and lab instruction, as well as her teaching materials.
 
One colleague, for whom Obright has served as a career mentor, says “the two greatest things that Prof. Obright has taught me is to be ‘real’ as a teacher and to be ‘engaged’ or excited about the material.”
 
“She is completely devoted to her students and in her mind success is based solely on the successes of her students,” says a peer.
 
Obright upgrades her professional skills and is designated as a ‘Part A Orthopaedic Physical Therapist’ within the Canadian Physical Therapy Association, a designation few Canadian physical therapists hold.
 
Students are enthusiastic in their praise for Obright’s teaching impact, noting she “treats each and every student as if they serve a distinct purpose in her life, and that makes all the difference,” and “she is a legend in orthopaedic education.”  

Marilyn Robinson Award for Excellence in Teaching

 
Faisal Rehman
Department of Medicine,
Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry
 
As a teacher of medical trainees at all levels, Faisal Rehman incorporates the following ideal into his teaching philosophy: “The most important thing I have learned when it comes to teaching and learning is that one must establish a healthy environment for students and residents to learn. Minimizing the power structure that exists between a teacher and a student is critical to the free flow of ideas.” 
 
Director of Education and Residency Program in Nephrology and the Clinical Clerkship Co-ordinator (Internal Medicine), Rehman is also chair of the Genitourinary System course in the undergraduate MD program at Schulich.
 
Rehman’s directorship of the Nephrology Training Program has resulted in its high standing, exemplified by both internal and external peer reviews and has resulted in the program being much sought after by trainees all over Canada.
 
Since leading the Genitourinary undergraduate course, Rehman has enjoyed accolades from students and is currently the Honorary President of the Schulich MD class of 2011.
 
Rehman has been awarded the University Students’ Council’s Honour Roll Award for Excellence in Teaching in Medicine every year since his arrival at Western in 2004 and has collected 22 additional teaching awards during the same time.   
 
 
Christine Sprengler
Department of Visual Arts,
Faculty of Arts and Humanities
 
A former student described Christine Sprengler as having the "positive succession of influence, as a ripple effect on still water, that excellence in teaching and academic reinforcement can produce.” 
 
“I want [my students] to feel a sense of agency, to understand that they can be the recipients and the producers of knowledge,” says Sprengler.
 
As an instructor in Visual Arts since 2003 and former undergraduate program chair, Sprengler has developed and taught many courses in what she calls the interdisciplinary enterprise of Art History. Her students and colleagues value her open, selfless, and rigourous teaching style. 
 
Sprengler’s teaching fosters active participation in the learning process wherein participants learn to reflect on how media and visual culture influence their views of the world. As one of her nominators says: “she inspires enthusiasm for thinking and learning, makes knowledge powerful and useful, and encourages her students to be the best they can be, at university and beyond.”  

Angela Armitt Award for Excellence in Teaching by Part-Time Faculty

 
David L. Watson
Faculty of Education
 
David L. Watson has devoted a lifetime to mathematics education. After 35 years of teaching mathematics for the London District School Board, Watson joined the Faculty of Education in 2001.
 
During his time at Western, he has implemented a personal education philosophy that is “not so much about transmitting information as it is about transforming knowledge so as to make it accessible to others.”
 
In doing so, Watson has encouraged many teachers to let go of their innate fear of math, embrace its beauty, and pass a love of mathematics on to others.
 
In the words of one of his students, “Dave taught us how to spark that flame for learning in students who did not have a means to spark it themselves. He showed us how to be the best educators we could possibly be.”
 
Watson has also been very active in educational outreach at local, provincial, national and international levels, where he is much sought after as a leader in the design and use of technology to support and extend school mathematics programs.
 

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