Paula Gardner has a steady and measured approach to her university teaching career that began at Brock five years ago.
Teaching is a practice so we need to dedicate time and attention to it, but we also need to be patient with ourselves says the assistant professor of Public Health and the 2014 recipient of the Brock University Award for Excellence in Teaching for Early Career Faculty.
Gardner’s best advice to colleagues, particularly new teachers, is to “flourish at a reasonable pace.”
“That is my personal and professional mantra. Don’t expect, or try, to do it all, to learn it all, to teach it all and to be all,” she says. “Start small, start on easy bits, start with one thing and then build from there. Learn by doing — just try stuff, experiment and have fun. And know that it’s OK if you fail here and there — that’s part of the learning.”
Brock faculty have until Wednesday, Nov. 8 to submit nominations for the 2017 Award for Excellence in Teaching for Early Career Faculty Award, the Clarke Thomson Award for Excellence in Sessional Teaching and the Don Ursino Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Large Classes. Nomination packages must be submitted to the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation (CPI) in hard copy or electronically to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Award recipients receive a framed certificate and a teaching and learning grant. The winners will be publicly recognized at CPI’s annual 2017 Tribute to Teaching reception to be held on Wednesday, Dec. 6.
CPI Director Jill Grose says the awards demonstrate the value that Brock places on a broad scope of contributions to teaching and learning.
“The awards help us to distinguish teaching excellence at all stages and in all its forms,” she says. “The early career award celebrates outstanding educators who are making a significant contribution to the teaching culture even while attempting to establish their research program. Teaching large classes takes a special skillset. And our sessional teachers are often an invisible part of the teaching family yet they make important contributions to innovative and inventive teaching practices. Overall, the awards celebrate the high calibre of Brock teaching.”
Nominees are required to submit a 20-page dossier that provides an overview of their teaching background and philosophy along with support statements from colleagues.
Preparing the dossier may sound daunting. However, Gardner valued the opportunity to reflect on her teaching, describing the process with a quote from Paul Cezanne, a French artist and Post-Impressionist painter: “Time and reflection change the sight little by little till we come to understand.”
“The process of self-reflection — a necessary activity for preparing a teaching dossier — was incredibly insightful,” she adds. “Applying for this award meant granting myself permission to take the time to be reflexive and to do so mindfully, intentionally and without judgement. Great learning came from both the process as well as the product. These learnings have been foundational in my teaching practice since then.”
Gardner, who also holds a 2016 Brock Chancellor’s Chair for Teaching Excellence, adds that awards reinforce the University’s commitment to excellence in teaching.
“The award and recognition send a message that teaching at Brock is important. It’s a motivator. It encourages us as educators to continue to walk the talk as lifelong learners and to keep trying and working at improving our teaching skills and knowledge.”
More information on the Brock University Award for Excellence in Teaching for Early Career Faculty, Clarke Thomson Award for Excellence in Sessional Teaching and Don Ursino Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Large Classes awards is available on the CPI website.