Western names Excellence in Teaching winners

By Communications Staff
March 19, 2014

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TEACHINGcoverIllustration by Frank Neufeld

Six winners from four faculties have been awarded Western’s highest honour for the “highest calling.”

“These awards celebrate a select few of our colleagues who best personify Western’s reputation for excellence in teaching,” said Amit Chakma, Western president. “I want to commend and congratulate each of them for their dedication to innovative teaching that supports student learning and success.”

This year’s winners join a company of teachers nearly a quarter century in the making.

Established in 1980-81, the University Awards for Excellence in Teaching were named in 1987 in honour of Edward Gustav Pleva, Western’s first Geography teacher in 1938 and head of the department from 1948-68.

Established in 1989-90, the Award for Excellence in Teaching by Part-Time Faculty was renamed in 2003 in honour of Angela Mary Armitt (BA’36, MA’67, LLD’87), a champion of life-long learning, and Western’s first dean of the Faculty of Part-Time and Continuing Education.

Established in 1996-97, the Award for Excellence in Teaching was established to be awarded based on evidence of outstanding contributions in the area of classroom, laboratory or clinical instruction. The award was named in honour of Physiology professor and Educational Development Office coordinator Marilyn Robinson, who became captivated with the idea of exciting students by means of active learning and problem solving.

Continuing these traditions today, we present the 2013-14 Awards for Excellence in Teaching.

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TEACHINGbattistaPaul Mayne, Western News

Jerry Battista
Medical Biophysics, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry
Edward G. Pleva Award for Excellence in Teaching

During his decades of experience, Jerry Battista has lived a teaching philosophy emphasizing impact in students’ lives. Each course begins in “a comfort zone” before he delves into more challenging material. His goal is to create a nonthreatening learning environment for students.

He has been called an innovator. Battista helped develop DeskCAT, a device that brings the concepts of CT scanners to the classroom. These devices have been hailed as “highly beneficial” to students just starting out in the classroom. He has also transitioned an in-class course into an online course, a conversion colleagues hailed as “superb.”

He also helped develop the Commission for Accreditation of Medical Physics Education, a program designed to give graduate students real-world skills beyond just technical knowledge. The program is flourishing.

TEACHINGcamPaul Mayne, Western News

Cameron Tsujita
Earth Sciences, Faculty of Science
Edward G. Pleva Award for Excellence in Teaching

As a university teacher, Cameron Tsujita is the real thing: a creative and gifted professor dedicated to his students and his craft on a national scale.

To him, teaching is a labour of love. His teaching philosophy and behaviour are consistent with student voices found in letters, emails and comments on websites. They speak of an inspiring, innovative, passionate and effective teacher who genuinely cares about their learning and is always there for them. Many students remember concepts related to his handmade props and familiar analogues long after they took his courses.

Tsujita tries to reach as many people as he can and spread the word about his passion: Earth. He cannot help it; he is driven to share his love of geology. In his view, a better understanding of our planet helps us make better decisions and live better lives.

TEACHINGsadiPaul Mayne, Western News

Jackie A. Sadi
Physical Therapy, Faculty of Health Sciences
Marilyn Robinson Award for Excellence in Teaching

A self-described “lifelong learner,” Jackie Sadie challenges her students to become comfortable with uncertainty in order to reach higher levels of thinking. She has earned the respect of her students for her “exceptional mix of academic, clinical and real-world knowledge” and receives outstanding teaching evaluations. 

As program chair in the Master of Clinical Science Program, Sadi has had a major role in curriculum development. She has facilitated effective learning in a mandatory Mentorship Course by creating materials for both students and mentors, as well as hybrid on-site and online courses that emphasize flip classroom pedagogy to recognize the challenges of teaching working professionals. She has been called “a beacon of leadership during this intense program.” 

TEACHINGbradPaul Mayne, Western News

Brad Urquhart
Physiology and Pharmacology, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry
Marilyn Robinson Award for Excellence in Teaching

Although Brad Urquhart has only been a professor in the department since 2009, he has shown himself to be a superlative well-rounded teacher at the graduate and undergraduate levels.

Almost as soon as he was appointed, Urquhart saw the need for a major course revision in the large online second-year Pharmacology course. This extremely popular course now incorporates many innovative teaching activities, including animations and videos, as well as CSI scenarios, in which students are walked through virtual crime scenes to study the pharmacological aspects of the crime. 

His in-class courses offer similar hands-on experiences. Students are unanimous in their praise of his teaching style, especially in the way he engages students. In his third-year course, for example, Urquhart incorporates individual genetic tests for each of his students so they can study genetic variability.

Described as an in-class innovator, he is approachable and supportive of the success of his students. 

TEACHINGkoscinskiAdela Talbot, Western News

Daria Koscinski
Biology, Faculty of Science
Angela Armitt Award for Excellence in Teaching by Part-Time Faculty

Part-time Instructor Daria Koscinski has been teaching in the Department of Biology for the eight years, during which time she has earned enormous respect from students and instructors for her passion for teaching and her commitment to the community. 

Koscinski’s teaching ability is evidenced by her consistently outstanding teaching evaluations and her five-time receipt of the USC Teaching Honour Roll Award of Excellence. She may be best known for her innovative teaching methods, offering new, practical and ‘hands-on’ learning experiences. 

Most notably, Koscinski independently conceived and designed the first Community Service Learning course offered by the Faculty of Science. Special Topics in Restoration Ecology lets students work with community partners to produce restoration and management plans for local land sites. Koscinski succeeded in taking her own passion for ecology beyond the classroom and inspired students to make a difference in their community.  

TEACHINGgarberAdela Talbot, Western News

Larry Garber
English and Writing Studies, Faculty of Arts & Humanities
Angela Armitt Award for Excellence in Teaching by Part-Time Faculty

Larry Garber has been teaching creative writing with tremendous success for years – as the publishing record of his students reflects.

Garber applies to his courses the same recipe required to write creatively: discipline, dedication and a critical mind unafraid to adapt. You need all this to find the best material possible for each course – reading dozens of portfolios in order to find the 12 pupils who will create an ideal environment for writing. Each course then becomes a creation in itself, tailored and designed to the needs of each new cohort, where the carefully selected pupils will learn to live as writers, learning discipline and dedication, and developing their critical-yet-supporting minds, and who will not be afraid to challenge themselves and adapt.

When Garber’s life as a full-time professor came to an end because of mandatory retirement, he returned as a part-time faculty to continue his lifelong mission of teaching creative writing – creatively.


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