Goodman’s Teaching Excellence winner believes ‘once a teacher, always a teacher’

Kai-Yu Wang always ends each of his academic terms the same way.

It doesn’t matter the subject, whether it’s a graduate or undergraduate class, or the Fall or Winter Term.

At the end of his last lecture, Wang lets his students know they can always reach out to him for advice.

Sometimes, they connect soon afterward. Other times, it’s years later. There’s no time limit on his offer because Wang lives by a Chinese saying that means ‘once a teacher, always a teacher.’

“What it means is that a teacher is a lifelong position,” said Wang, Professor and Chair of the Marketing, International Business and Strategy Department. “Even when (students) finish their degree, there are so many puzzles in their life, they don’t know what to do. I try to make a bridge for them so they can transition from university to industry.”

That level of care that Wang demonstrates hasn’t gone unrecognized. He’s this year’s recipient of Goodman Faculty Teaching Excellence Award because of it, and was honoured during Brock’s Virtual Spring Convocation on Friday, June 18.

The accolades follow Wang earning the Brock University Award for Distinguished Teaching in fall 2020.

The recognition is an honour, Wang said, but it’s not the reason he chose a career at the head of the class, including 14 years at Brock.

“I just love teaching and interacting with students, and seeing how students gain knowledge and how they grow during the semester,” he said. “The joy for me is seeing students get interested in a certain subject and wanting to do this for their career.”

Thinking back to his years as a student, Wang recalled several instructors whose work and impact extended beyond the lectern, inspiring him to do the same in his career as a professor.

He counts his PhD supervisor, Laura Peracchio, at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee among them. She didn’t just coach him through his doctoral thesis, Wang recalled. She took time to practise job interview questions with him, even advising him on his suit and tie choices to make the best impression.

“I just felt blessed to have a supervisor who looked at so many details,” Wang said. “There are many teachers in my life that really inspired me. They not only cared about the intellectual part of my life but also about my career, my life. I just felt really grateful and thought maybe I could do something similar for my students.”

Service learning is among the most impactful teaching tools Wang uses in his courses.

The reason: It gives students the opportunity to work on real-world projects that help a business or organization grow and succeed.

Wang started using service learning as a teaching tool 10 years ago in his introduction to marketing class. He extended it to his marketing research, consumer behaviour and internet and social media marketing courses soon after.

It wasn’t easy, but the benefits outweighed the hard work required to incorporate such hands-on lessons, he said.

“You have to be committed to spend the time to see the curriculum design work,” he said. “If you design the curriculum well, you can see the students benefit immediately, not just to connect them to the business world but to help them in their career.”

This work was recognized this week by LearnSpace, a learning innovation hub in Paris, France, as one of the 10 most innovative pedagogical innovations in the Business Education Innovations Contest.

The effort students put into their service-learning projects often lead to other opportunities once their assignments are complete. That’s confirmation enough for Wang that service learning is an essential teaching tool.

“When you see students’ smiling faces saying ‘I got a job offer’… you know you’re doing the right thing incorporating service learning.”

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