2013 SCS Awards for Distinguished Teaching Go to Two Seasoned Professors

2013-2014 Issue 1

The School of Continuing Studies defines distinguished teachers as people who are passionate about helping students to learn, giving them a sense of accomplishment and setting an example, among other criteria. This Spring’s winners, Maria Eduarda Nunes and Jocelyne Philie, both brim over with undimmed enthusiasm for their chosen calling.

“I consider myself a very fortunate person,” says Nunes, “I did not have to choose a profession, a profession chose me!” At the age of seven, she taught a 14-year-old boy in her homeland, Mozambique, how to read, and she will never forget that first student who was instrumental in igniting her passion for teaching. Years later she left her homeland to complete her university studies in Lisbon. She returned to her homeland to start her teaching career, but for political reasons, moved to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1974, where she taught for the first time in English – no small feat, as her mother tongue is Portuguese.

In 1978 she immigrated to Canada and began to teach in French and English, her second and third languages respectively. In 1984, Charles Roth invited her to teach mathematics and statistics in Continuing Education at McGill. “How enchanted I was, how grateful I still am!”

She retired officially in 2000, but when Roth asked her to teach the new Mathematics for Management course in 2007, she jumped at the chance: “I couldn’t let that opportunity go by.”

She greatly admires the courage of her evening students and their determination and effort to attend classes in a difficult course after a full day’s work. Every time she enters the amphitheatre on the first day of the semester, she says she feels like a conductor facing an orchestra. “I set the tone, the theme, but they play the instruments. They will have to work hard but I hope they will enjoy the music.”

Nunes feels privileged to teach students from such diverse backgrounds: “The students come from different countries and speak different languages – we could set an example for the world!” And that explains why “after 54 years in the profession, I’m still full of enthusiasm every time I make contact with a new group.”

“It’s a great joy to receive this award for the second time almost at the end of my career. It means my students and the administration recognize that I invest not only my knowledge, but above all, my heart.” On the first day she entered the classroom to teach French 37 years ago, Jocelyne Philie knew she’d found the right career for her. She’s taught for school boards and in the corporate world, taught intensive and part-time courses, even trained other teachers, but “my best years [of teaching] have been at McGill.” Since 1986, she’s enjoyed the training and support she’s received from Languages and Intercultural Communication and the “chance to grow” while teaching in world-renowned programs at McGill. “What’s really marvellous about work ing with beginners is seeing how soon they gain confidence and develop strategies so they can start to live in French in and beyond the classroom.

“Technology is an incredible support in teaching, and I use it a lot, but it will never replace communication between people, the smiles all around, and the personality we put into the materials we prepare for our learners. Teaching French to beginners, you’re on the front lines to help them discover francophone culture – especially la culture québécoise, since they’ve chosen to study here in Montreal.

“Learning a language means much more than learning words and structures – it’s a way of thinking and growing. I hope that over the years, I’ve transmitted my passion for the French language, for teaching and interacting and communicating with each student,” says Philie.

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