First-rate teaching and mentoring that goes above and beyond the norm is the cornerstone of Brock’s reputation for excellence in undergraduate and graduate education. As such, at this year’s Spring Convocation taking place from June 5 to 9, the University will pay tribute to six faculty members for their exceptional contributions to teaching.
“The recipients of these awards for teaching excellence provide our students with a top-notch education experience,” says Murray Knuttila, Provost and Vice-President, Academic. “The quality of teaching, supportive learning environment and classroom innovation that these outstanding faculty provide for our students helps to foster a culture of pervasive research and creative activity at our University.”
The Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching is awarded to individuals chosen by selection committees of Faculty members, staff and students from the Faculties of Applied Health Sciences, Business, Education, Humanities, Mathematics and Science and Social Sciences. Nominees must have a reputation for superior teaching and be recognized for this quality by students and colleagues.
This year’s recipients are:
Professor Kevin Kee
Department of History and Centre for Digital Humanities, Faculty of Humanities
Professor Kevin Kee is a Canada Research Chair of Digital Humanities with expertise in the use of the new digital technologies in the study and teaching of history.
He is the editor of the forthcoming text Pastplay: Teaching and Learning History with Technology and has published many scholarly articles, delivered conference papers, garnered grants and organized conferences, all focusing on the teaching of history through interactive new media, from websites to iPhone apps.
Professor Kee has been instrumental in developing Brock’s Interactive Arts and Science program and MA in History. He has designed courses in history and new digital media and serious gaming, and he uses his interactive media technological and theoretical expertise in the teaching as well as design of his courses.
Professor Kee’s teaching is noted not only for his enthusiasm, creativity and commitment, but also for his use of educational principles to create a class environment in which students use interactive media to form community, become engaged in the transfer of knowledge and take responsibility for their learning.
Professor Kee believes in the power of hands-on application to support and enhance learning. He aims to make of his classes communities of practitioners who work with peers from different discipline backgrounds to bring history to life.
Professor Kee also helped to conceive and launch nGen (Niagara Interactive Media Generator), where a number of his former students work and have launched their careers. He also created the Ontario Augmented Reality Network and helped create the History Education Network.
Professor Greg Finn
Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Mathematics and Science:
Professor Greg Finn joined Brock’s Department of Geological Sciences (now Earth Sciences) in 1985 and over the years has established himself as both an outstanding teacher and well-respected administrator.
Although Professor Finn has held various administrative positions at Brock, including Department Chair, Associate Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics and Science, and, since 2007, Vice-Provost and Associate Vice-President, Academic, he has always maintained a strong teaching presence in Earth Sciences.
He is a popular and well-respected instructor of optical mineralogy and igneous and metamorphic petrology. His students consistently acknowledge the effort he puts into his courses in order to ensure that difficult concepts are presented with precision and clarity.
Students have commented, “Professor Finn was my favourite teacher this semester. He’s obviously spent the time and energy to make this course enjoyable and understandable,” and “I found that I was looking forward to the class because the lecture was engrossing and very informative. The fact that this important course was superbly designed and instructed was awesome.”
Professor Finn is also provincially and nationally respected for his efforts relating to education, pedagogy and outreach. He is involved with the Science Teachers Association of Ontario, the Geological Association of Canada, the Association of Professional Geoscientists of Ontario, and Geoscientists Canada.
A long-time colleague notes, “Greg is an outstanding classroom teacher and through his work with a number of external organizations I believe that he has become one of the most prominent and influential people in Earth Science education in Canada.”
Darlene Ciuffetelli Parker
Department of Teacher Education, Faculty of Education:
An administrator, literacy consultant and elementary teacher in Toronto for more than 15 years, Professor Darlene Ciuffetelli Parker brought her knowledge, experience and unique research to the Faculty of Education in 2005.
Professor Ciuffetelli Parker excels in gaining insight on life and narrative in the fields of teacher education, marginalized communities, and diversity and literacy education through the use of narrative inquiry methodology.
She believes that curriculum is made alongside the students she teaches and the communities she interacts with. Curriculum, in this perspective, is made through the intertwining of her life course of action with students’, colleagues’ and communities’ life courses of action.
Recently, Professor Ciuffetelli Parker analyzed the effect of poverty on students and families as well as Ontario educators who work in school communities affected by poverty. The results of this research include several presentations and publications locally, nationally and internationally, with a research report, policy brief and a co-authored book: Poverty and Schools in Ontario: How Seven Elementary Schools are Working to Improve Education.
However, it is not just her research that has made her a deserving recipient of this award. Her work and dedication in the classroom has proved just as significant.
One of her students notes, “Dr. Ciuffetelli Parker’s passion and love of teaching is contagious in the classroom and her desire to motivate every student is most rewarding.” Another says, “Dr. Ciuffetelli Parker is the kind of professor who touches the lives of every student she teaches … [she] truly inspired me.”
Professor Robert Dimand
Department of Economics, Faculty of Social Sciences:
Professor Robert (Bob) Dimand is known for making a difference. He will walk out of his office at midnight after working on a research paper and “eagerly” answer questions from students concerning their test scheduled for the next day. Through astute mentoring he has significantly shaped the future of many of his students during their time at Brock.
Students speak about Professor Dimand as being an inspirational mentor and having “that rare personality that is able to inspire and enlighten.” In the context of large classes, he is always available, is keen to answer questions and makes economics “interesting, challenging and entertaining.”
In smaller graduate courses, Professor Dimand’s own engagement in the discipline motivates students and as they say “the most amazing part is that Bob always feels his audience and knows the precise timing of when to do what and how to grasp highly volatile students’ attention.”
Professor Dimand gives his students the gift of confidence and with this confidence students embrace learning and become able to present strong arguments to others.
One of his students, who went on to complete a doctoral degree at Yale aptly commented that by Professor Dimand’s “ability to engage the class in economic questions, to excite students and to teach us how to think about problems makes him one of the best educations that I have ever come across.”
Professor Erin Sharpe
Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, Faculty of Applied Health Sciences:
Professor Erin Sharpe’s impact in areas of innovation and leadership in teaching and learning is evident both within the classroom and beyond.
Professor Sharpe believes “community” is both a place and a process, and she creates opportunities and activities that move students out of the classroom and into settings and contexts that allow them the opportunity to engage in community life.
Professor Sharpe’s students have engaged in numerous service learning projects at more than 15 sites across Niagara.
In 2011, she initiated a course called CAMP L.E.A.D. (Learning through Experience and Adventure). The course invited students to create a five-day March Break life-skills camp for 25 local youths. In collaboration with RAFT (Resource Association for Teens) and the United Way, CAMP L.E.A.D. provided programming to youth in areas such as assertiveness, empathy, and social and interpersonal skills.
Professor Sharpe also initiated and led her department’s first international field course. She established a partnership with the University Superior Cultura Fisica “Manuel Fajardo” in Havana, and since 2010, has led two field courses to Cuba. This initiative provides students with the opportunity to learn about the culture of a different country and become more informed about themselves as global citizens.
Professor Sharpe has received two “Best Practices Teaching Awards” (2005, 2006) from the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation at Brock. She has contributed significantly in the areas of undergraduate and graduate student supervision, and her teaching scholarship includes international service learning and the use of web-based learning in the classroom.
Michael J. Armstrong
Department of Finance, Operations and Information Systems, Faculty of Business:
Professor Michael J. Armstrong is a recognized expert in operations management who has had his research published in a number of refereed journals and has been a frequent commentator on quality-related issues. He has been quoted in media across Canada including the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and National Post.
Professor Armstrong’s expertise in quality and process improvement is evident in his teaching. He focuses on the needs of his students by continuously improving course content and delivery, taking a quality control approach to ensuring he achieves those goals.
One of his challenges is to present course material in a way that is relevant to all of his students. To do this, he views his students as clients and asks himself what he can do to help them meet their needs for intellectual growth and future employability.
Once a course design is created that targets the needs of his students, he works on improving it, regularly adjusting content and delivery based on experience, student comments and advances in the field.
Since joining Brock in 2008, Professor Armstrong’s classes have been gaining in popularity with a 25 per cent increase in enrollment. His spirit of continuous improvement includes the use of high-tech tools and low-tech activities to supplement the regular lectures with experiential learning. His students appreciate his efforts and consistently give him high marks for his teaching performance.
Professor Armstrong’s students are the beneficiary of his dedication to his field and the application of his knowledge to his teaching techniques.