University of Calgary students showed their appreciation for this year's outstanding professors at the Students' Union Teaching Excellence Awards.
The Apr. 23 ceremony recognized the 26 professors and three teaching assistants who were honoured for the exceptional ways they taught their students. These individuals were nominated by members of the student body, the su then sent volunteers these nominated professors' classes and asked students to complete a questionnaire--part multiple choice, part long answer--on which the professors are evaluated.
"This year we had in the hundreds of nominations," said vice-president academic Brittany Sargent. "Students on the selection committee have to make visits to all the classes of all the professors nominated to do the evaluation. We ask the students from the classes to fill out an evaluation form with a written comment section where the students can provide a narrative for their professor. It is a good way for the students to convey something that may not be in the questions."
These evaluations were then judged by a selection committee made up of elected members of the su and one student at large. The vp academic is the chair of this committee. The comments that students made on the questionnaire had particular resonance with this year's selection committee.
"When students are writing comments that convey that professors have really inspired them, it is these kinds of comments which, for me, really stand out and show that a professor is exceptional," said Sargent.
Certain professors are consistently nominated for these awards.
Dr. Allison Dube has won this award a total of four times, including the last three years running.
"Four times," said Dube. "I feel very blessed. I won it the last three, but also won it in 1989-1990. For me, because the students are where I put all my energy, to be recognized means absolutely everything. The fact that the awards are organized by and given by the students means everything to me. The assessment and the recognition of the students are the only thing that matters."
Dr. Ed Nowicki, another recipient, was also very pleased to receive the honour.
"It's a big thrill," said Nowicki. "It means a lot to me because I know the SU puts a lot of time into this and the class I was teaching put in a lot of time filling out the forms. I wasn't expecting it, so was thrilled when I got the e-mail."
It is the combination of extra effort and a willingness to get to know the students that Dube feels separates the exceptional instructors from the rest.
"Time and effort," said Dube. "The combination of time and willingness to try. You know when you're in a class with someone delivering a prepared script and not taking the time to learn your names. The difference between that baseline and doing a decent job are being willing to put in the time to devote to all aspects of the lesson, and willingness to put in the effort to try to get to know your students. If you have not worked to forge the relationship with the students the messages are not going to get across."
Nowicki agreed that the relationship with the students is of paramount importance for any instructor striving for excellence.
"I try to set up an environment where they know I am a human being and approachable," said Nowicki. "When they know that I care they raise their own expectations. I love teaching because I love meeting different people and getting to know them a little bit."
Dube's impact upon the student body has been so profound that he was awarded a presidential citation by the SU.
"The president of the Students' Union gets to award a special citation at the end of their term," said Sargent. "It is usually awarded to anybody that makes a really strong contribution to the Students' Union or students in general, and we felt that Dr. Dube met the criteria this year. It is usually not awarded to professors."
As well as an awards reception put on by the su, the recipients will also be honoured at the senate luncheon on Jun. 1, 2007.