UVic's teaching stars, 2008

The University of Victoria is widely recognized for the talent, creativity and dedication of its teaching staff. Each year, various faculties and the UVic Alumni Association celebrate the best of the university’s teachers with excellence in teaching awards. This year’s recipients are profiled below.For a profile of this year’s recipient of the the Alumni Association’s Harry Hickman Excellence in Teaching Award, Dr. Catherine Gaul, see the Legacy Award story.

Dr. Ashoka Bhat

Faculty of Engineering Award for Excellence in Teaching

Ashoka Bhat, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is consistently rated by students at the top of the scale for teaching effectiveness and overall teaching ability. Within three years, he has supervised 39 students in their final design projects, which is the highest number in the faculty in such a time frame. He regularly changes and refines experiments to improve understanding and learning and he attends all laboratory sections of all his courses. His former students have thanked him for his effort in teaching and view him as one of the best teachers that they have had at UVic.

Dr. David Blades

Faculty of Education Award for Excellence in Teaching

David Blades is associate dean of teacher education, director of the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Understanding Science, a leader in the NSERC-funded CRYSTAL project, and a mentor for senior graduate students. Widely praised by his students, he received a rating of 4.96 out of 5 in his Elementary Science course. One student’s comments sum up the sentiment of the class: “Dr. Blades is easily the best prof I have ever had. The cross-curricular integration and ideas for development are superb.” He was instrumental in the collaboratively designed first-year Earth and Oceans Science course, which has significantly improved students’ understanding of and attitudes toward the Earth’s fragile system.

Jeff Corntassel

Faculty of Human and Social Development Award for Excellence in Teaching

As associate professor and graduate advisor in Indigenous Governance, Jeff Corntassel has demonstrated exceptional leadership and mentorship qualities. He has primarily taught two of the Indigenous Governance core courses—Research Methods and Self Determination in Canada—and has developed and taught two new online undergraduate courses. He consistently works closely with his students to help them complete their programs, while acknowledging that they have outside commitments critical to their livelihoods and communities. His teaching methods reflect the principle that teaching, research and community outreach, at their highest levels, are all interdependent.

Barbara Currie

Gilian Sherwin Excellence in Teaching Award

Barbara Currie, senior biochemistry laboratory instructor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, is widely known for her skill, knowledge and enthusiasm. With an emphasis on technical and problem-solving skills, she has become a master at introducing students to the wonders of the microbial world. She is constantly refining her rigorous and demanding lab experiments, which appeal to her students for their real-world practical applications. An active and empathetic community member, she volunteers her time to organizations such as Girl Guides, Science Venture, and the annual science fair. She has quietly helped students overcome personal challenges that may have otherwise prevented them from furthering their studies.

John Kilcoyne

Faculty of Law Terry J. Wuester Master Teaching Award (co-recipient)

John Kilcoyne, recently retired from the Faculty of Law, is no stranger to this award, having won it a total of six times. Known for his enthusiasm, wit and encyclopedic knowledge, he has the ability to make law understandable, relevant and fun to learn. A demanding taskmaster, he expects and wins a high level of performance from his students. Students taking his courses knew that they were in for an exciting ride, albeit not an easy one. Outside the classroom, he could be depended on to talk to students about the trials and tribulations of law school and their future plans as well as classroom material.

Dr. Alex van Netten

Faculty of Science Award for Excellence in Teaching

Alex van Netten, senior laboratory supervisor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, is known for his dedication to students, passion for teaching and innate ability to make complex and difficult concepts accessible. He has a gift for conveying not only how to memorize and apply equations, but also what those equations actually mean. He is able to bring physics to life by connecting his lessons to everyday experiences. Students in his classes have said that he is passionate, enthusiastic, kind and dedicated. One comment from a biology student particularly captures his abilities as a teacher: “[Dr. van Netten] makes me want to switch into physics.”

Daniel Laskarin

Faculty of Fine Arts Award for Excellence in Teaching

Daniel Laskarin, associate professor in Visual Arts, is a well-known sculptor whose works have been commissioned and shown around the world. He is noted for his ability to teach skills while allowing students the freedom to express their own view of the world. His commitment to shared learning between students and teacher is at the heart of his teaching practice. A thoughtful and rigorous critic, he is careful to balance his criticism with humour and thoughtful guidance for improvement. He recently chaired the departmental curriculum committee, contributing substantially to the quality of course offerings through a complete review and rebuilding of the curriculum.

Dr. Quentin Mackie

Faculty of Social Sciences Award for Excellence in Teaching

An assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology, Quentin Mackie is known for his humility and sense of humour, his valuing and accommodation of different styles of learning, and his dedication to the mentorship of Aboriginal scholars. His commitment to engagement and penetrative inquiry is described by many students as the reason for their academic and professional success. He was responsible for the complete redesign of upper-level anthropology courses as well as negotiating memoranda of understanding with First Nations groups affected by archaeological work. He encourages his students to develop skills and experiences that allow them to function just as ably in the lab as in the academic conference environment or the remotest field setting.

Dr. Annalee Lepp

Faculty of Humanities Award for Excellence in Teaching

Annalee Lepp, chair of the Department of Women’s Studies, is praised as a teacher who challenges students to learn difficult material, teaches them academic discipline, is a demanding taskmaster, and, at the same time, excites them with her ideas. By incorporating research on community activism into classroom study, she provides nuanced analyses of urgent issues facing the globalised world. Students credit group discussions, a staple in her classes, with giving them public speaking skills and compelling them to be active participants in their own learning process. Her particular area of interest is transnational migration and she has volunteered countless hours with the Canadian chapter of the Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women.

Dr. Margaret Wyeth

Faculty of Science Award for Excellence in Teaching

Margaret Wyeth, a senior instructor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, is credited for her multidimensional contributions to mathematics teaching. She is a valued mentor who guides new instructors and TAs, coordinates many sections of multiple courses and each year teaches eight one-term courses across as many as six subject areas. She was responsible for revising the delivery of Math 120 and played a key role in working with the Ministry of Education on a revision of the high school mathematics curriculum. She is recognized as an intuitive teacher who understands student learning. “I saw a lot of lightbulbs go off when she was lecturing,” says one nominator.

Gillian Calder

Faculty of Law Terry J. Wuester Master Teaching Award (co-recipient)

Gillian Calder has made her mark as a dedicated and innovative teacher in the Faculty of Law. She is known among students and colleagues for her enthusiastic and engaged teaching style and her unwavering commitment to an inclusive and respectful learning environment. She is a leader in implementing new teaching methodologies, such as the use of forum theatre exercises. She also researches and writes about legal pedagogy, including a recent article about the lessons learned when she had students in Constitutional Law create their own constitution to govern classroom interactions. Her passion for learning and teaching is exemplified by her participation in national and international workshops dedicated to the improvement of teaching skills.


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Keywords: uvics, teaching, stars, 2008

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