“Are you worth learning from?”
It’s a question Hilary Brown, an Associate Professor in the Department of Teacher Education, asks herself and the teacher candidates in her classes.
Brown has been awarded the 2017-18 Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching, and on Wednesday, June 6, she delivered the Convocation address to graduating students in the Faculty of Education.
Before coming to Brock, Brown was a teacher with the Halton District School Board for 16 years. An accomplished athlete, she was the first Canadian Woman to finish the Ironman triathlon in Hawaii in 1982. Two years later, she competed in the first Women’s Tour de France bike race.
But, for Brown the real recognition comes from her students.
“The teacher candidates are the ones who validate what you’re doing or what you’re not doing. You listen to them and if you’re not doing well then you need to change something,” says Brown.
Brown isn’t afraid to fail in the classroom or learn from her students. She hopes that attitude will encourage them to break out of their comfort zones in the classroom.
“They’re willing to take risks if I’m willing to take risks,” she says.
Brown instills in her students that they have to keep learning throughout their careers by leading by example. Modeling lessons for her students is an important part of Brown’s approach to teaching, whether that’s setting an example by eating healthy lunches in front of her elementary school students or using teaching strategies in her classes with Brock teacher candidates.
“I model the strategies that I hope they would use in their own practice so that they can learn how to build community,” she says.
Her ultimate hope is that these students will pass a love of learning on to the children they teach for years to come.
A focus on diversity has also been a theme in Brown’s career, both at Brock and as an elementary school teacher.
Her research on duoethnography as pedagogical tool, for example, is interwoven into the work her students do in class.
“Duoethnography is when two people dialogue about a topic of difference,” explains Brown. She uses this process in the classroom, with students deconstructing the term diversity for example.
She wants her students to understand that their biases and assumptions could prevent them from meeting the needs of the different learners they will encounter as teachers.
“We have so many diverse learners now. My whole philosophy is to meet as many learners as possible where they are, not where we think they should be. Meet them where they are and move them in a direction that actually fulfills their needs and not our own agenda.”
Brown has been instrumental in developing new core courses for the two-year enhanced teacher education program a few years ago. These courses bookend practical classroom experience for Brock teacher candidates, helping them to become culturally responsive teachers for learners with diverse needs.
Wednesday’s Convocation ceremonies were also marked by the awarding of the Board of Trustees Spirit of Brock Medals and the Dean’s Medals.
The Spirit of Brock medals are awarded to one undergraduate student and one graduate student in each Faculty who best exemplify the spirit of Maj.-Gen. Sir Isaac Brock. Emily Napper won the undergrad award and James Crosscombe received the graduate award.
Receiving the Dean’s medal, for achieving the highest academic standing in their Faculty, was Usman Hassan in Teacher Education.