Top teachers honoured at fall Convocation

Posted on Wednesday, December 9, 2009
From left to right: Bruce Shore, Carolyn Samuel and Peter Gibian all won a Principal’s Prize for Excellence in Teaching. Absent from the picture is the fourth award-winner, Kathleen Fallon. / Photo: Owen Egan

From left to right: Bruce Shore, Carolyn Samuel and Peter Gibian all won a Principal’s Prize for Excellence in Teaching. Absent from the picture is the fourth award-winner, Kathleen Fallon. / Photo: Owen Egan

By Neale McDevitt

They are all teachers, though at different stages of their respective careers. All four have a passion for their profession, though two admit to all but stumbling onto that path. They are as different as the subjects they teach, but on Nov. 27, they shared the spotlight at Convocation as they were named winners of the Principal’s Prize for Excellence in Teaching.

The veteran

Although Bruce Shore, winner of the prize for full professors, has been teaching at McGill for 39 years, he had his first taste at the helm of a class long before that. “My first formal teaching assignment was when I was in Grade Five and the principal – also my class teacher – asked me to cover a Grade Two class when the teacher suddenly fell ill,” he said. “It was definitely a calling.”

Despite a lifetime in the classroom, the Educational and Counselling Psychology veteran doesn’t feel even slightly jaded. “I still get a thrill seeing students have that ‘I got it!’ moment,” he said. “And in helping teachers-to-be understand that they are knowledge creators as well as knowledge consumers.”

The convert

Unlike Shore, Kathleen Fallon doesn’t feel like she was born to teach. “For me, it never was a calling,” said the winner of the assistant professor prize for her work in the sociology department. “I’m generally more of a withdrawn person and the first time I had to teach in front of a classroom, I was a nervous wreck.”

Overcoming her early jitters, Fallon now thrives in the classroom setting where she is constantly looking to evolve as a teacher. “Learning from the students energizes me,” she said. “It motivates me every day to become a better teacher.”

The enthusiast

Not surprisingly, Fallon’s enthusiasm is shared by all the prize-winners – and none more than then the English Department’s Peter Gibian. “I love what I’m doing,” he said. “I love the reading, I love the research, and I love working with the students.”

And, on top of the subtleties of 19th Century American Literature, what wisdom does the recipient of the associate professor prize try to impart upon his charges? “I don’t like the association of knowledge and pomposity. We shouldn’t learn to put ourselves above others,” he said “Learning is about following your enthusiasms and your passions. That’s the pursuit that makes your life fuller.”

The communicator

Not long ago, Carolyn Samuel, a teacher in the English & French Language Centre, took a course in Mandarin. “I didn’t really have plans to speak Mandarin, but I think it’s an important refresher for a language teacher to have that feeling of ‘Oh, I don’t know how to say this.’ Empathy is so important for teachers.’”

Samuel, who teaches academic written and oral English to second-language graduate students says that, above all, she feels incredibly fortunate to be doing what she does. “I teach individuals who are literally looking for the cure for cancer or diabetes, people who build bridges and cities – what a privilege to work with these people, these minds.”

Share this article

Category: News

Post a Comment

  1. You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>