Tsujita named 3M National Teaching Fellow

Earth Sciences professor Cameron Tsujita has been recognized by 3M Canada and the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) as a 3M National Teaching Fellow, widely seen as the top national award for teaching leadership at the postsecondary level.

“I imagine this is what a Canadian recording artist must feel in receiving a Juno Award,” Tsujita said. Tsujita is one of 10 fellows named for 2014, and the 24th in Western’s history.

Tsujita said a great deal of gratitude goes to his Western colleagues: Professor Stephen Hicock, his teaching mentor, who put together his 3M nomination package; professor Fred Longstaffe, who gave him the chance to teach at Western; everyone in the Department of Earth Sciences, who have always stood behind him; and his always-supportive family.

“I might well have given up during hard times if it wasn’t for these people,” Tsujita said. “Receiving the 3M National Teaching Fellowship also, of course, reinforces my desire to become an even better teacher. There is so much more I want, and need, to do.”

STLHE wrote of his nomination:

“After you said on the first day, ‘I’m here to teach,’ I fell in love with you.”

Cameron’s students feel strongly about their professor. Great teachers transform: “So infectious are Cam’s teaching methods that once I was exposed to his ideals, I continued to replicate them throughout my life,” says a former undergraduate.

Cam is dedicated to inspiring others to improve their teaching well beyond Western’s campus. His educational leadership includes peer mentoring, workshop presentations, conferences, video, TV, radio and pedagogic publications. 

He created the Ontario Geoscience Resource Network to open communication among Ontario geoscience departments, museums and school teachers, providing them with resources to deliver earth science-related concepts.

His colleagues generously agree:

“It is common knowledge that Cam Tsujita is by far the best teacher in our group.”

“Dr. Tsujita’s goal is to educate those around him, the students in his class, his fellow faculty, the public, administrators, and the country.”

“One out of a million profs! Awesome course, but not a bird class. You definitely need to go to class. Very interesting class though! My favourite so far! I give Cam a 10 out of 10!!” 

Announced in the Feb. 24 Student Issue of Maclean’s magazine, the awards were established in 1986 as a way to reward excellence in university teaching and leadership.

“These are the teachers who open windows and change lives,” said Arshad Ahmad, STLHE president and 3M fellow, as well as McMaster University’s new associate vice-president of teaching and learning. “Leaders doing work beyond their own institutions; champions we want to learn from.”

The fellows become life members of the society, participate in its annual meeting and attend a teaching retreat in Banff, Alta., where they create new ways to foster academic excellence.

A Western graduate, Tsujita, BSc’89 (Geology), loves what he does – even finding himself teaching in the very classrooms where he took Geology courses as a student.

“Like many paleontologists, and Earth scientists in general, I developed a fascination in what I now study at a very early age, and I just never grew up,” he said. “I’m living a childhood dream, so the enthusiasm I project is absolutely genuine. And, even better, I get to learn new things about my discipline – and beyond – every day in the act of teaching. It gives me a great feeling to know that this enthusiasm can touch a person’s life in a positive way. It makes me feel useful.”

In that issue of Maclean’s, Tsujita penned a piece, Earth scientist says honesty, enthusiasm go a long way, which read, in part:

“… One part of my personality that creeps into everything I do is the need to be creative. In cooking (another of my favourite pastimes), I love the challenge of finding whatever ingredients are in the house to create (hopefully) a delicious and comforting meal for my family. In the same way, I’ll be in the middle of a lecture, spy some random object in the classroom — a blackboard eraser, a glove that someone left behind, or a bottle in a recycling bin — and think, “Hey, that’s exactly what I need to demonstrate this concept.”

Former students have said these spontaneous teaching moments have been most effective in helping them remember difficult concepts. Luckily for me, the Earth Sciences department has always tolerated (and even encouraged) my sometimes unconventional ways. They have always believed in me. They always come to bat for me at contract renewal time, year after year. My gratitude for that steadfast support from my colleagues makes me want to be the best teacher I can be—for them and for our students. …”

Western has a proud tradition of 3M National Teaching Fellows with 24 winners in the program’s history including:

2014 Cameron Tsujita, Earth Sciences

2013 Mark Goldszmidt, Medicine

2012 Marjorie Johnson, Anatomy and Cell Biology

2008 Jim Silcox, Obstetrics and Gynecology

2005 Anton Allahar, Sociology

2004 Bertha Garcia, Pathology

2000 Francis Ping-Hung Chan, Anatomy and Cell Biology

1998 Mike Atkinson, Psychology

1996 Donald Cartwright, Geography

1995 Tom Haffie, Plant Sciences

1994 David Bentley, English

1994 Paul Mercer, Physiology

1993 Brock Fenton, Biology

1993 Marilyn Robinson, Physiology

1992 H.G. Murray, Physiology

1992 Wayne Weston, Medicine

1991 Alan Gedalof, English

1991 T.D. Gaily, Physics

1990 Madeline Lennon, Modern Languages and Literatures

1990 Colin Baird, Chemistry

1989 Paul Sills, Dentistry

1988 Peter Rosati, Engineering

1986 James Erskine, Business

1986 Eileen Gillese, Law