The only person who didn’t feel entirely at ease with Hilary Brown winning the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation’s Award for Excellence in Teaching for early career faculty was Brown herself.
Despite the comments from students describing Brown, an assistant professor in the Department of Teacher Education, as the quintessential teacher who inspires, is passionate and authentic, the accolades given at a reception Tuesday aren’t what motivates her.
“Truthfully, awards make me uneasy,” Brown said. “I teach the way I do because it comes from the inside out and this is an award that’s external to that process. But I’m happy for the award because it comes from the comments of students.”
And there was no shortage of those.
At a reception at Alphie’s Trough Tuesday, Fanny Dolansky, last year’s award recipient, introduced Brown with a speech peppered with high praise for a professor who stresses the importance of paying attention to students’ emotional, physical and social well-being in addition to their intellectual capacities.
“One letter of support from a pair of former students insists that ‘while every other professor has solely focused on the mind, Dr. Brown extracts knowledge from her students’ hearts, souls and bodies as well,’” said Dolansky, an associate professor of Classics.
“Regarding her course on the body as a site for knowledge… they state categorically ‘This course and Dr. Brown have transformed us as individuals in a way no other course can compare (and have) catalyzed us to become better educators, students, professionals, and human beings.’
Hilary’s immensely positive influence on her students and impact on their journeys is abundantly clear,” Dolansky added.
This is the eighth year the award has been given to recognize the contributions to teaching made by a new faculty member who’s in the first five years of a tenure-track position.
Nominations can come from anyone in the Brock community and a committee made up of professors and representatives from the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation chooses the winner.
Brown, who taught grades 7 and 8 in Halton for 16 years before coming to Brock in 2006, describes her teaching style as holistic, focusing on balance, inclusion and connection in the classroom.
“It’s looking after the person first and then the curriculum,” she explained.
Still, Brown admitted, she has had her skeptics, though she has managed to turn those into believers in her approach.
Take, for example, the student who recently let Brown know how profound an effect she and her teaching methods have had in his own classroom despite his initial doubts.
But Brown, who was joined at the reception by her mother and husband, isn’t about to take the credit.
“In his letter, he says it was because of me but it happened because he was ready for it,” she said.