Western celebrates top teaching talent

Eleven winners, representing three 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 later named in honour of Edward Gustav Pleva, Western’s first Geography teacher (1938) and head of the department (1948-1968).

Established in 1989-90, the Award for Excellence in Teaching by Part-Time Faculty were later named 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 2019 awards for excellence in teaching.


Daniel Belliveau
Faculty of Health Sciences
Health Studies

Daniel Belliveau is described by his colleagues as an innovator in the classroom, an unwavering voice of support for students at the undergraduate and graduate levels and an engaging leader. He has served in numerous leadership positions, including as the undergraduate chair of the School of Health Studies and currently as Director. Additionally, Belliveau has taken a leadership role within the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association (UWOFA) as President.

Belliveau’s leadership, however, has not distracted from his teaching and has spent considerable time developing and delivering core courses within the curriculum and has spearheaded first-year tutorials and assisted with the planning of an international student engagement course. He has also brought a unique and engaging teaching methods to the classroom and is believed to be the first person at Western to investigate the use of the TopHat pooling device within the classroom and pioneered the use of online tournaments to increase student engagement.

Jose Herrera
Faculty of Engineering
Chemical and Biochemical Engineering

Jose Herrera has been teaching at Western Engineering for 12 years. His teaching style is rooted in high expectations, building self-confidence in students, and awareness to individual learning preferences. Students collectively describe him as “engaging and approachable.” He is an artful teacher who relates subject matters to real-life examples and to simple analogies. His passion to teaching and his teaching style has always been admired by his former and current students. One student wrote:

“Dr. Herrera shows extraordinary commitments to ensuring the success of his students.”

Another student stated:

“Dr. Herrera demonstrated so much positivity and enthusiasm and created such an enjoyable atmosphere in the classroom. I always looked forward to attending his lectures and left feeling inspired and motivated.”

His remarkable dedication and the quality of classroom instruction earned him several teaching awards selected by Chemical Engineering undergraduate students and also the Faculty of Engineering.

He is active in curriculum development. He recognized the need in curriculum change that would have so many positive consequences for students. In response to the recently instituted requirements of the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB), he led a comprehensive curriculum revision of the undergraduate programs in chemical and Biochemical engineering and remapped all Year 2 to Year 4 courses (a total of 40 courses) to realign the program’s learning outcomes, which proved to be a success. His educational leadership in training Chemical and Biochemical Engineering faculty members on outcome-based criterion for course design was the hallmark of his education leadership.


Nicole Campbell
Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry
Physiology and Pharmacology

In their course evaluation comments and letters, students emphasized Nicole Campbell’s approach to teaching through inquiry, reflection and group work which helped them engage with research in interdisciplinary Medical Science, and also develop the perseverance, flexibility, project-management and scientific writing skills they need as future professionals.

As one student wrote in her nomination letter:

“Dr. Campbell’s classroom was a space in which it was safe to fail. She instilled in us the belief that mistakes are a necessary part of the process. I cannot stress enough how beneficial this was to my development as a student and as a person.”

Campbell partnered with an escape room company to develop Escape Box assignments that engage students with solving complex puzzles while developing team work and problem-solving skills.

Students also spoke enthusiastically about her thoughtful approach to promoting mental-health awareness through office hours on Facebook and vouchers that can buy a one-day extension on assignments during particularly stressful times.

As a Teaching Fellow in the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Campbell has developed an interactive visual syllabus and implemented a personal development project to help students identify and articulate institutional competencies they have achieved in their program at Western.

Campbell’s innovative approaches to teaching have been recognized with Western’s Fellowship in Teaching Innovation Grant, while her latest article on ePortfolio adoption was recently published in The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.

Charys Martin
Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry
Anatomy and Cell Biology

Charys Martin believes learning is an active, dynamic process and a successful educator stimulates and inspires students to become active participants in their education by providing the right conditions for learning to occur. She has been doing just this since joining the Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry in 2015

Martin is known for conducting innovative large- and small-group learnings that are student-centered and outcome-based and frequently contributes to the improvement of curriculum, even though she does not have full autonomy over her courses. Her dedication to this is proven by having spent countless hours creating new lecture slides (more than 60 hours on a single lecture for every course), making Martin stand out among dozens of clinical and academic educators that she team teaches with.

Martin has an excellent rapport with students, and always bears an infectious enthusiasm and inspirational presence in and out of the classroom. She is applauded for creating a safe learning environment where students feel comfortable making mistakes in order to learn and often meets with students individually to identify their weaknesses, develop a plan, and support them so they can succeed. Her teaching evaluations are consistently higher than the Schulich faculty average and routinely include comments from students who are grateful for her energy and enthusiasm, organization and clarity, and willingness to help.

Tara Mantler
Faculty of Health Sciences
Health Studies

An excerpt from Tara Mantler’s teaching philosophy illustrates her well:

“I strive to create an environment that fosters student growth through inspiring curiosity, promoting engagement, and encouraging critical scholarship. I achieve this by having students engage with course material using experiential learning, leveraging current events, and providing clear relevance of the learning to the students’ future. … I believe the best learning happens when it is co-created.”

Mantler has dedicated a considerable amount of her time and effort to pedagogy; this is reflected in the range of innovative methods she applies to motivate her students. This is complemented by her infectious enthusiasm and genuine care she has for her students and their education.

Not only is she interested in what her students learn, but how they learn; too often one assumes that teachers are born to teach and students are born to learn, but this is far from the case. Mantler understands this only too well, which is why she’s devoted equal time to learn how to teach and teach how to learn. Much of this has been done in the context of her work and research on health and aging, a topic that is challenging to convey to an undergraduate audience.

Yet, based on student responses, she has managed to exceed their expectations, not only by teaching them about their chosen field, but also how to be better persons by example and through her mentorship.


Michele Barbeau
Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry
Anatomy and Cell Biology

Michele Barbeau sees herself as a “facilitator creating opportunities to enable student success” while “inspiring students to take ownership of their learning” and “creating an environment accessible to all students.”

Barbeau has been teaching in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology for more than 12 years. What is most remarkable, if you look at her workload, it more closely resembles a full-time faculty member than a part-time faculty, let alone the winner of the Angela Armitt Award for Excellence in Teaching by a Part-Time Faculty.

Barbeau is deeply involved in all manner of teaching-related activities. She teaches 14 different courses across seven different academic programs and all with exceptionally high teaching ratings. She is involved in both individual course and curriculum design in her faculty and created a digital library of microscope slides for a third-year course in Mammalian Histology. Barbeau also developed online laboratory activities for the department’s large third-year undergraduate anatomy course and uses closed captioning in her lecture recordings to help hearing impaired students.

Because of her teaching innovations in the lab and lecture, she has also become a teacher of teachers, often participating in campus-wide workshops or giving talks at international conferences. In addition, although not part of her workload, Barbeau also supervises graduate students while also conducting and publishing research on her teaching.

On top of all of her educational accomplishments she still stands out as a compassionate and caring mentor of her students. Students frequently comment on her being “highly approachable”, an “inspirational lecturer” and “enthusiastic teacher.” She is also a very strong supporter of student physical and mental health and she founded and leads an after-school running group called the Wellness Running Club.

It is clear that Barbeau is a truly outstanding educator and leader in the teaching community who has gone above and beyond the expectations of a part-time faculty member.


Richard Booth
Faculty of Health Sciences

Arthur Labatt Family School of Nursing

Though still a young faculty member, Richard Booth is already an internationally recognized leader in the development of technologies to enhance clinical health care. It’s no surprise, then, he is also blazing trails in the use of innovative technologies that help Nursing students learn and practice clinical skills.

In class, his students enjoy engaging with a range of social media technologies that promote collaborative and experiential learning. He has developed a learning tool, in the form of a serious video game, to give students practice in the safe administration of medication before they enter the clinical setting. The findings from this simulation in turn drive classroom discussions about the role of technology in healthcare.

Booth recently received an eCampus Ontario Digital Inclusion grant to support the development of a range of sophisticated simulated experiences for students from several disciplines learning to work with people suffering from dementia. With the support of an award from the Faculty of Health Sciences, an immersive simulation experience is being created in a room within the new Faculty of Information and Media Studies (FIMS) and Nursing Building. The first environmental simulation of its kind in a Canadian nursing school, this room will be retrofitted to replicate a homecare environment, and will feature a range of artificially intelligent and smart technology designed to support aging in place.

Booth also teaches the teachers. He has published widely in leading nursing education journals; he is an active mentor of nursing faculty nationwide, as they enhance their competency in health-care informatics; he has developed a program for the delivery of health informatics education in all Canadian nursing schools.


Anita Woods, Tom Stavraky and Angela Beye
Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry
Physiology and Pharmacology

Under the joint vision and leadership of Tom Stavraky, Angela Beye and Anita Woods, third-year students in the Physiology and Pharmacology program now engage in a dynamic lab course that reflects the instructors’ combined teaching expertise in systems physiology, pharmacology, and molecular biology.

Working together, they reinvented the laboratory experience by designing a hypothesis-driven, hands-on, experiential learning course with innovative experiment and assignment options for students. The collaboration involved designing 40 individualized experiments, developing online modules, and mentoring teaching assistants to support the course.

Since it was first offered in 2017, the course has had a clear impact on undergraduate research capabilities. As one student noted:

“This course significantly enhanced my confidence in the laboratory. … The course went beyond simply instilling basic laboratory skills. With an integrative curriculum that touched on many aspects of scientific research, we were challenged to think critically about experimental design and to apply our knowledge of the scientific process to multiple tasks.”


Sarah McLean
Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry
Physiology and Pharmacology
Anatomy and Cell Biology

Student engagement is at the centre of Sarah McLean’s teaching. Her work developing original and interactive online learning modules for students in the Interdisciplinary Medical Sciences (IMS) program has had an extraordinary impact on their learning experience. Student reception has been nothing but enthusiastic:

“Dr. McLean’s innovative use of technology realizes the desire that many young students like myself have to have a deep and exciting learning experience that goes beyond PowerPoint and video lectures.”

The heart of McLean’s approach is a blended and flipped classroom design. Students engage in the online environment at their own pace through activities that motivate them to digest and process the information rather than just passively listen. The modules take advantage of a variety of tools and students are then prepared to engage in face-to-face discussions, laboratory experiments, and collaborative projects. Overall, the interactive online modules prepare students to be confident and capable learners inside and outside the classroom.