Western celebrates top teaching talent

Eighteen winners, representing five different faculties, have been awarded Western’s highest honours for inspiring active and deep learning in their students. This year’s winners join a company of teachers nearly a quarter-century strong.

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 1948-1968.

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 later named after 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.

Faculty members were also recognized with the Vice-Provost (Academic Programs) Award for Excellence in Collaborative Teaching and the Vice-Provost (Academic Programs) Award for Excellence in Online Teaching and Learning.

Continuing these traditions today, we present the 2018 awards for excellence in teaching.



Department of English and Writing Studies, Faculty of Arts & Humanities

“For me, the classroom is a sacred space: a profound gift and luxury, in the world’s current state, of engaging one another without prescription,” writes Professor Joel Faflak in his teaching philosophy statement. He uses this space to challenge colleagues and students to pursue questions of literature, meaning, ethics and society. Students praise the profound impact his teaching and mentorship have had on their education and careers, including in keynote lectures such as How to Fail Properly and Career Advice to My University Self.

As inaugural director of the interdisciplinary School for Advanced Studies in the Arts and Humanities (SASAH), Faflak has been a tireless advocate for arts and humanities education. He and colleagues have created experiences such as a downtown exhibition space for student projects and performances; collaborations with Innovation Works and Woodland Cemetery; international service learning; and creative capstone assignments leadership courses.



Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Social Science

Lisa Hodgetts’ teaching philosophy states, “We learn best by doing.” Her courses in the Department of Anthropology illustrate this drive for active learning. She brings the field into the classroom with teaching innovations that range from blogs, YouTube videos, and board games to 3D prints and virtual-reality viewers. From first-year to graduate courses, she creates an interactive learning environment and provides opportunities for hands-on activities and experiential learning. She recently redesigned the graduate professional development course to enhance learning opportunities and provide students with concrete outputs to further their careers.

Beyond the Western classroom, Hodgetts is a passionate advocate for archaeology – locally, as she works with high school students in London; and nationally, with Inuvialuit youth in the Northwest Territories. Hodgett’s commitment to teaching and research make her a role model for students and colleagues alike. 


School of Health Studies, Faculty of Health Sciences

Aleksandra Zecevic defines teaching as “the business of changing lives,” something she has done at Western for more than a decade. Teaching young undergraduate students about aging carries its own challenges, and Zecevic focuses on innovations that make gerontology courses personal and relevant. One creative example is the Empathy Lab that simulates aging challenges among young participants.

Zecevic is an educational leader and is often first to incorporate and share innovative teaching techniques. Zecevic was in the first cohort to receive Western’s Community Service Learning (CSL) Award and is mentor to colleagues designing their own CSL courses.

Students and colleagues describe her teaching as “transformative” and “inspiring.” As a formal and informal mentor to scores of students, Zecevic often goes the extra mile to make sure they are supported and encouraged.



School of Kinesiology, Faculty of Health Sciences

Professor Dave Humphreys joined the School of Kinesiology in 2011 as a limited-duties lecturer in sports injuries. Since then, he has made outstanding contributions to student learning and is admired by students, peers and community partners for his outstanding teaching.  He excels at integrating class concepts with ideas and methods students have learned in other courses.

He uses innovative assessment techniques, integrates theory and practice and connects with students by offering advice beyond the classroom. Testimonials include this, from a recent graduate: “When I reflect back on my experiences at Western, I credit much of my development as a kinesiologist and clinician to the instruction of Professor Humphreys. He is a talented physiotherapist and lecturer, but his greatest asset lies in his concern to help students excel in his courses, believe in themselves and have the confidence to apply their knowledge.”


Department of Physiology and Pharmacology/Anatomy and Cell Biology, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry

Sarah McLean’s students describe her as clear, energetic, enthusiastic with a teaching style that makes them excited to learn. She strives to include interaction, collaboration and inspiration – ensuring student perspective through peer-to-peer interactions and then inviting students to reflect on their discussions. At the centre of her teaching is innovation through technology. She designed for her Medical Sciences 3900 class decision trees called LaboraTREEs – online simulations in which students’ decisions lead them down different paths, similar to the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. This allows them to learn from their mistakes and receive immediate feedback, enhancing their confidence and performance during experiments in the lab.

She has developed experiential learning opportunities with community partners in London to allow students to apply knowledge to real-world health issues. She also provides mentorship outside the classroom by hosting Mentorship Mondays to discuss careers, volunteering and work-life balance.



School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Faculty of Health Sciences

Julie Theurer has taught at the undergraduate and graduate levels for the past 10 years. She has already received several accolades for teaching excellence, including as recipient of the Faculty of Health Sciences Part-Time Teaching Award of Excellence in 2006 and 2013. Her teaching philosophy bridges the gap between accumulating factual knowledge and developing clinical competence. Her students appreciate hands-on activities she incorporates into courses and the emphasis given to evidence-based practice.

Theurer uses multiple tools to enhance student engagement and learning. In addition to consistently scoring near-perfect student ratings, she also cares deeply for her students. One student wrote, “in all of my encounters with Dr. Theurer, she has always displayed a genuine care in my long-term professional growth.”



Department of History, Faculty of Social Science

Under the joint vision and leadership of Michelle Hamilton and Michael Dove, the MA in Public History is recognized as one of the best Public History programs in the country. Since 2008, Hamilton and Dove have collaborated to redesign the program, teach the core courses and jointly lead and administer the program.

They play a critical role in developing and maintaining community partnerships that, since 2006, have allowed students to work with more than 100 organizations across Canada, including Museum London, Banting House National Historic Site, the Royal Canadian Regiment Museum, the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 and Parks Canada. As one community partner notes, such collaboration “enhances the academic experience, helps local institutions and empowers students. And it only succeeds in achieving all of this because of the determined work of Professors Hamilton and Dove.”


Derek Berg // Special to Western NewsThe Preceptor Education Program team includes, front row from left, Mike Ravenek and Julie Whitehead (with Pounder the Dog); middle row from left, Elizabeth Anne Kinsella, Taslim Moosa and Karen Jenkins; third row from left, Karen Ferguson, Mary Beth Bezzina and Ann MacPhail; back row, Ann Bossers. Absent from photo is Susan Schurr.

Anne Kinsella, Ann Bossers, Karen Ferguson, Julie Whitehead, Taslim Moosa, Susan Schurr, Ann MacPhail, Karen Jenkins, Mary Beth Bezzina, and Mike Ravenek

School of Occupational Therapy, Faculty of Health Sciences.

More than 1,000 students in the Faculty of Health Sciences enter clinics, hospitals, schools, treatment centres and private practices to take part in clinical learning experiences each year. Leaving the classroom, health care students apply skills they have learned under the close guidance of a preceptor—a practicing professional who provides experience, training and feedback to students under their supervision.

Introducing preceptors and students to learning experience of their clinical placements is a cross-disciplinary team of faculty members and staff from across the Faculty of Health Sciences who developed the fully-online Preceptor Education Program (PEP). The PEP is a vital open-access educational program that enables Western to offer a high-quality online learning experience. It allows for professional and clinical development regardless of location or time of day.