The 2021-2022 Western Awards for Excellence in Teaching have been announced, honouring nine faculty members and the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry anatomy education team. Recipients are being recognized for actively engaging and inspiring students.
Their following profiles are based on nominations from across the university community.
EDWARD G. PLEVA AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN TEACHING
The University Award for Excellence in Teaching was named in honour of Edward Gustav Pleva, Western’s first geography teacher (1938) and head of the department (1948 to 1968).
Shauna Burke, Faculty of Health Sciences, School of Health Studies
Recognized by colleagues as a “bold innovator” in the pedagogical arena, Shauna Burke is celebrated for her thoughtful approaches to course design, clinical instruction and graduate supervision. As an influential researcher and educator in the field of health promotion, Burke is heralded by her students as an “exceptional educator,” who promotes critical thinking, open-mindedness, empathy and respect for others. She is held in high regard across the Western community for her leadership in scholarship and community-driven service work. Burke is the past recipient of the prestigious Early Researcher Award from the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, The Marilyn Robinson Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the Faculty of Health Sciences Teaching Award for Excellence.
Maria Ferraro, Faculty of Social Science, DAN Department of Management and Organizational Studies
For her “contagious energy and enthusiasm,” Maria Ferraro’s nominators describe her as a “human dynamo.” They laud her talent for making accounting theory exciting. Since arriving at Western in 2006, Ferraro has consistently garnered some of the most impressive teaching evaluations across all faculties. Her students praise her for turning “even the most mundane topics into engaging ones,” and for using real-life examples from her industry experience to promote understanding of practical applications. Ferraro’s commitment to education extends beyond the classroom. She has been instrumental in developing new courses and course materials, creating new graduate programs in accounting, and a new exchange program with Radboud University in the Netherlands.
Joe Gilroy, Faculty of Science, Department of Chemistry
Joe Gilroy sees teaching as a shared responsibility between students and instructor on a journey of learning and discovery. He sets high standards for himself and his students, with the goal of helping his students grow. “Beautifully balancing the demands of a lead researcher in chemistry and a university instructor, he brings to the classroom his passion and knowledge of organic materials and macromolecular chemistry, and the tools for all his students to succeed.” During his 10 years at Western, Gilroy has been a positive mentor for students, fostering strong independent and critical thinking skills. He patiently explains concepts, providing the insight and encouragement his students need to succeed in the classroom and in their careers.
Sarah McLean, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology
Sarah McLean’s expertise in teaching innovations has far-reaching impact. Her passion has resulted in seven research papers in the past five years and has been instrumental in creating successful course design and curriculum development. It has also earned her respect from admiring colleagues, who describe Sarah as “an exceptional teacher, mentor and educational innovator,” who “engages and empowers her students using a variety of approaches, including blended and flipped classrooms that allow them to gain confidence in new materials before classroom discussions.” A recipient of numerous awards, McLean was a valued contributor to the successful Interdisciplinary Medical Sciences (IMS) program, and the internationally recognized Clinical Anatomy Program, and its growing reputation for producing the next generation of anatomy teachers.
MARILYN ROBINSON AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN TEACHING
The Award for Excellence in Teaching is presented for outstanding contributions in classroom, laboratory, or clinical instruction. The award was later named after physiology professor and educational development office coordinator Marilyn Robinson, who prized the idea of students’ active learning and problem-solving.
Julie Theurer, Faculty of Health Sciences, School of Communication Sciences and Disorders
Julie Theurer’s peers and colleagues praise her as an outstanding communicator who has played a pivotal role in shaping the curriculum with the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders. To support her teaching, she has developed innovative learning activities including anatomical 3-D models, interactive classroom collaborations with speech language pathologists, and hands-on mapping of nerve pathways. Students describe Theurer as an “inspiring, compassionate, and dedicated” instructor who ensures they actively engage in their own educational journey. Many of her former graduate students deem her to have been “fundamental” in supporting their studies and progression. Theurer’s fellow faculty members see her as a well-respected role model and a champion of equitable teaching.
ANGELA ARMITT AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN TEACHING BY PART-TIME FACULTY
The Award for Excellence in Teaching by Part-time Faculty was later named in honour of Angela Mary Armitt, BA’36, MA’67, LLD ’87, a champion of lifelong learning, and Western’s first dean of the Faculty of Part-Time and Continuing Education.
Anita Cramp, Faculty of Health Sciences, School of Health Studies
As a part-time professor at Western and a manager of the school health team at London Middlesex Health Unit, Anita Cramp is recognized for her exceptional ability to merge community and classroom. She goes “well beyond the call of duty to provide students with amazing educational opportunities,” arming them with practical experiences for their future careers. Cramp has a deep commitment to fostering independent thinking, taking an evidence-based approach in her teaching. Colleagues and students noted the finesse with which she operates a classroom, despite a very busy professional life outside of Western. Camp is a natural teacher, with one student writing that her “open, approachable demeanor helps to create an ideal learning environment that allows students to thrive.”
THE VICE-PROVOST (ACADEMIC PROGRAMS) AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN ONLINE TEACHING AND LEARNING
Designed to recognize and reward the efforts of instructors who have demonstrated outstanding online teaching through exemplary online course design.
Brian Allman, Michele Barbeau, Tyler Beveridge, Charys Martin, Tim Wilson, David Creces and Haley Linklater, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology
When the pandemic hit in 2020, the anatomy education team in the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry were challenged to recreate the impact of a hands-on learning experience – online. It was a problem embraced by Brian Allman, Michele Barbeau, Tyler Beveridge, Charys Martin, Tim Wilson, David Creces and Haley Linklater. Thanks to their efforts, students continued to receive a high-quality anatomy learning experience. Noteworthy was the team’s development of a technology platform, affectionately called “Frank,” to generate real-time streaming of dissection-based anatomy course content. This technology allowed students to interact with their professors and classmates during live sessions. A thoughtful selection of camera angles on the instructor’s hands and specimens provided learners with superior access to lab content. The platform also allowed the students to connect virtually with families of donors at a year-end ceremony, to thank them for their bequeathals, which are integral to learning.
Tricia Johnson, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, undergraduate chair, visual arts
Tricia Johnson had already transformed Studio Arts 1601 into one of the premier first-year undergraduate studio courses in the province, when unexpectedly called upon to teach the course online to more than 200 students. Johnson approached this challenge by considering accessibility and her desire to create a sense of connection between herself and among students. Working with the Centre for Teaching and Learning, and WTS support staff, she created an asynchronous online version of the course. It employs a combination of technique demonstration, including videos created by Johnson and opportunities for students to share and appreciate each other’s work through the use of VoiceThread. One student noted, “In some ways, being able to watch Tricia’s process helped me understand the goal of the assignment better than if she were only using words and gestures to explain in person.”
THE VICE-PROVOST (ACADEMIC PROGRAMS) AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN COLLABORATIVE TEACHING
Established to recognize instructors whose exemplary collaborations in university teaching enhance student learning.
Cheryle Seguin and Trevor Birmingham, Collaborative Specialization in Musculoskeletal Health Research program, Bone and Joint Institute
Western’s Collaborative Specialization in Musculoskeletal Health Research (CMHR) program showcases interdisciplinary teaching excellence on an institutional and national level. Bringing together more than 100 trainees – from undergraduate and graduate students to post-doctoral fellows – spanning five faculties and 15 departments/programs, and a team of over 30 educators, CMHR is the first and largest program in Canada to provide multidisciplinary training in musculoskeletal health (MSK).
At the helm of this impressive and innovative program are co-directors Cheryle Séguin and Trevor Birmingham. They believe “big, real-world problems like the burden of MSK conditions are best solved by the intersection of different disciplines.” Central to their teaching philosophy is the desire to prepare the next generation of MSK researchers to make an impact through transdisciplinary research.
The CMHR program fosters multiple levels of collaboration: from the delivery of a transdisciplinary core program curriculum and collaborative research carried out by its trainees, to the multidisciplinary mentorship opportunities for students.