2012-13 Awards for Excellence in Teaching


Visual Arts, Faculty of Arts and Humanities

In her 26 years at Western, Visual Arts professor Kathryn Brush has distinguished herself as both teacher and researcher, as her research has always nourished her teaching.

Her area of expertise, Medieval Art and Architecture, is not one that immediately appeals to students, but she has a remarkable ability to shift expectations and generate enthusiasm. Working with her students, she has also reached out into the larger community with her exhibitions at Museum London. She has worked with her graduate students to publish a collection of essays developed from a graduate course and exhibition, Mapping Medievalism at the Canadian Frontier (2010). In fall 2012, she organized a teaching exhibition on Arts of Pilgrimage: Experiencing the Medieval Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, that emerged from her current undergraduate course on Romanesque and Gothic Art, and which included collaboration with local pilgrims who had made the medieval-inspired pilgrimage.

This initiative is typical of Brush’s teaching, which forges connections with lived experience and the life of the wider community. She manages not only to bridge historical periods, medieval to modern, but to bridge geographically as well. Perhaps the most remarkable quality of this remarkable teacher is the selfless way in which she showcases her students rather than herself. The two websites that have come out of her seminars and exhibitions put the students front and centre. Her courses knit together the best classroom experience with extramural activities that are not embellishments, but are absolutely central to the curriculum.


Richard Ivey School of Business

All Pleva nominees are fabulous classroom teachers. Richard Ivey School of Business professor Mary Heisz, who joined Western in 2000, is no exception. For the past five years, her average score for overall effectiveness as an instructor is 6.7, well above the average in a program known for excellence in teaching. But her contributions to student education go well beyond the classroom.

As a section head in the Honors Business Administration program, and now as faculty director, Heisz has taken on major responsibilities in developing curriculum and mentoring faculty members who teach in the program. As one of her colleagues writes: “The leadership and commitment Mary continues to show to her colleagues is truly exceptional and one of the real joys of working here at Ivey.”

Even outside Western, Heisz has taken on a leadership role. She has directed the ReConnect Program, an executive program for professional women who wish to return to the workforce after having left for some period of time. These are only a sample of Heisz’s many accomplishments in business education.


Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Science

Joining the Western community in 1998, Jisuo Jin has strived to pass his knowledge onto his students. Jin has had a career littered with recognition for his excellence in teaching and many publications. He has effectively balanced his teaching with his responsibilities as a researcher, and because of that he is able to keep on the cutting edge of his field and bring that knowledge with him back to the classroom.

Jin believes “teaching students is a lot like parenting.” He works to build a positive learning environment for all his students, and wants to enkindle his passion for learning within his own students often through working new discoveries into his lecture material. Jin challenges his students to think critically and argue logically, even against answers presented in the textbooks.

He is constantly updating his teaching pedagogy in order to more effectively educate his students. “He was always immensely helpful and more than willing to assist any of his students with any troubles,” one student said, a sentiment shared by countless others.


Department of Women Studies, Faculty of Arts & Humanities
Faculty of Information and Media Studies

Susan Knabe is a brilliant and popular teacher jointly appointed in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies (FIMS) and the Department of Women’s Studies and Feminist Research. Her students and colleagues praise her as a generous and tireless mentor, the kind of professor who “changes lives,” “turns people around” and “turns even the toughest situation into an occasion for learning.”

Knabe is a prolific course designer and curriculum developer. She has played a key role in developing a Major in Sexuality Studies, the Teaching Support Centre’s Master Class Program as well as a dozen innovative and wildly successful courses in both Women’s Studies and FIMS.

Students “talk about these courses with joy,” her colleagues report, and “buzz with excitement” about their assignments, many of which spill out of the classroom and into the public sphere. Knabe’s students engage in “culture jamming” activities, create wikis and e-zines, and plaster campus with awareness-raising banners, posters and art. Knabe is also the creator and driving force behind Flaunting It, the interdisciplinary undergraduate conference on gender and sexuality, now in its eighth year.

Service-learning options take Knabe’s students into the community. Those in Knabe’s Feminist Theory and Practice course, for example, really do both theory and practice, connecting classroom discussions to placements in organizations like Big Sisters, the London Abused Women’s Centre and the Sexual Assault Centre of London. Knabe is deeply committed to the teaching mission of the university in its broadest sense, making a difference in her students’ lives and empowering them to make a difference in the world around them.


Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry

Dr. Anita Woods uses diverse technology streams to encourage her students to “want to learn.” Given the successes she has she has garnered since her appointment in 2008, students are thriving under her facilitation.

Her self-described desire to see “light-bulb moments” on students’ faces indicates her passion for pedagogy is electric. Utilizing real-time Twitter in lecture, both pre-lecture and review vodcasts, highly experiential lectures and augmented reality laboratory aids, Woods stands out amongst her peers as a wonderful example of the new educator scholar at Western.

Colleagues and students highlight the breadth of her contributions to education that surpass excellent teaching and reach to effective mentorship and advisory roles. Multiple comments like “Anita has and will continue to be an amazing resource to me” highlight her enduring role in student development and success.


Department of Biology, Faculty of Science

Jennifer Waugh is commonly known as ‘Professor Waughsome,’ and rightly so.

From small classes to those with upwards of 700 students, everybody feels as though Waugh gives them individual attention and cares about their academic development. Her philosophy of teaching includes humanizing science and bringing as much discovery-based learning into the classroom as possible. These aspects are no doubt responsible for many students reporting, “she made me want to learn more.”

“It is particularly impressive that students comment on arriving to class with little or no enthusiasm for the topic and they leave passionate about pursuing research in that field,” said Charmaine Dean, Faculty of Science dean.

The Department of Biology and Western’s Indigenous Services’ Access Transition Program have benefitted greatly from Waugh’s breadth and depth of expertise; in the past four years, she has taught 12 different topics in a total of 17 courses. She has also been actively engaged in ‘teaching the teachers’ by leading graduate assistant training workshops at the Teaching Support Centre. She has co-authored a pedagogical paper in the journal Medical Teacher, and is an active member of Western’s Teaching Squares program and played key organizational roles for the Western Conference on Science Teaching (2011 and 2013).

Her leadership in education doesn’t stop at Western’s gates. Waugh is a steward, newsletter editor and UnConference organizer for the Ontario Consortium of Undergraduate Biology Educators. One of her students wrote, “Give this woman more teaching opportunities! She is excellent.”

It is hard to imagine that anyone could do more teaching than Waugh is currently doing.