Honouring Excellence: 2014 SCS Distinguished Teacher Award

2013-2014 Issue 2

In presenting its 21st annual Award for Distinguished Teaching, the School recognizes those teachers who embody the highest attributes of the teaching profession. It is a way of honouring those who are committed to quality teaching, who have the ability to motivate students and who work well with their colleagues in delivering courses compatible with program and School objectives. This year the award has three recipients: Carolyn Samuel, Leanna Turner and Chantal Westgate.

Carolyn Samuel

Carolyn Samuel

Carolyn Samuel, a senior faculty lecturer at the McGill Writing Centre, recounts how her passion for education was sparked in her high school years. After one year at a traditional high school where her teachers were failing to engage her in learning, she decided to leave. She craved more for her education and started attending an alternative school where students were directly involved with teachers and parents in creating a rich learning environment. The experience inspired Samuel to eventually go into teaching, and it has profoundly impacted her teaching style.

Samuel emphasizes the importance of being intentional in all aspects of teaching: “Teachers should always know what they are doing, and why they are doing it in order to sequence learning material in pedagogically sound ways and to ensure the achievement of learning outcomes.” She believes that this metacognition — critically engaging with the thinking behind what one is doing — is equally important to foster among students so that they can become independent learners.

This award is particularly meaningful to Samuel because the nomination comes directly from her students, about whom she speaks with respect and admiration; “My students are studying to become professionals such as doctors, engineers, historians, lawyers, psychologists and teachers. I get to teach people who are trying to make the world a better place. It’s truly inspiring.”

Leanna Turner, a lecturer in Language and Intercultural Communication at the School, remembers how excited she was to have her very first class of adult English as a second language learners: “It was in the age before the internet, when teachers’ book bags were bursting with papers, texts, cassettes and assorted items to try to bring the outside world into the classroom.” Looking back on her early teaching experiences, she feels gratitude to the students and colleagues that motivated her to pursue her career in adult education.

Leanna Turner

Leanna Turner

Turner is amazed at the ways in which the advancements in technology have allowed teachers to connect with students and to be able to deliver material in ways unimaginable at the start of her career. Additionally, the mentorship of colleagues, such as former level-coordinator Deanne Delaney, has been invaluable in informing her teaching.

“Delivering the kind of programs that we do in the Department of Language and Intercultural Communication requires a team effort,” says Turner. “This teaching award is a reflection of this collaboration, and I’m so proud and honoured that our students have chosen to let us know, in this most special way, that their experiences here have been meaningful and that our work is helping them to reach their goals.”

Chantal Westgate

Chantal Westgate

Chantal Westgate worked for 13 years in the private sector before joining McGill full time in 2002 where she is currently a faculty lecturer in the Desautels Faculty of Management in addition to teaching at the School of Continuing Studies. “The School has given me the opportunity to teach in their diploma and graduate levels, as well as to teach in Inuit communities and also in their executive programs,” says Westgate. “Such diverse opportunities have challenged me to tailor my teaching. Overall, it has made me a better lecturer.”

Having taught managers and leaders around the world skills such as collaboration, influence, communication, emotional intelligence, leadership and change management, Westgate is honoured by the recognition from her students: “That means more to me than anything else, as I know I am surrounded with extremely talented colleagues.”

In recognizing the great lengths many SCS students go through to achieve academic success, many of whom are working full time and have families, Westgate feels privileged: “There are teaching moments that I can’t forget such as seeing students stay in class past the end of the lecture to get ready for a simulation. Such enthusiasm despite their very long day!”

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