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.
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, Education, Humanities, Mathematics and Science, Social Sciences, and the Goodman School of Business. Nominees must have a reputation for superior teaching and be recognized for this quality by students and colleagues.
This year’s recipients are:
Professor Barbara Seeber
Department of English Language and Literature, Faculty of Humanities
Professor Barbara Seeber’s dynamic lecture style and the clarity of her expectations are always highlighted in her student evaluations, as is her willingness to listen to student voices. With an outstanding score on overall effectiveness as an instructor, it is no wonder her teaching has been described as “passionate” by her classes.
Since arriving at Brock University in 1998, Professor Seeber has offered engaging, energetic lectures on subjects varying from Restoration and Augustan Literature to Animal Studies.
Her commitment to liberal education has led her to her current project, co-authored with Maggie Berg (Queen’s), on the scholarship of teaching and learning, The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy, which “began as a search for strategies to counter work stress among university teachers and students, and evolved into a recognition that a slow approach to academic practice may be the most effective way to counter the erosion of humanistic education by corporate culture.”
Her willingness to be open with students about her pedagogy, and to stress her own continuing growth as an instructor, is refreshing and commendable.
As one colleague put it, she is “not just communicating information… [but] modeling for students and TAs an engaged pedagogy that learns from past experience and adjusts to meet the demands and the unique environment of each new classroom situation.”
This enlightened attitude has earned Professor Seeber the profound respect of both her students and her colleagues, and with good reason.
Professor Kari-Lynn Winters
Department of Teacher Education, Faculty of Education
A graduate of Brock University, Professor Kari-Lynn Winters didn’t always excel in education. As a child she struggled in school and couldn’t read or write with fluency until Grade 3.
“I stand here today because of the creative, hardworking teachers who stood by me, expected excellence, and offered differentiated approaches to learning,” states Professor Winters. For her, arts-based teaching practices made and continue to make all the difference.
Throughout her four years as an assistant professor in Brock’s Faculty of Education, Professor Winters has worked to bring differentiated, arts-based approaches to her students-in similar ways to how she was supported as a child. She is passionate about teaching and believes in the strengths of her students.
While she holds high expectations, she supports the students in their educational leadership journeys just as she was supported. Using dramatic strategies such as puppets, tableaux and role-play, Professor Winters introduces innovative, collaborative, and interactive ways of learning the curriculum-whether it be in math, science, social studies or language arts.
Her students rave about her dedication to teaching, her commitment to issues of social justice, her enthusiasm for learning, and her innate ability to create a safe space where every person has opportunities to express themselves and inspire others. The hands-on approaches to learning that she uses and has developed have been integrated into the courses she has designed and taught, including Arts Education, Language Arts, and cohort.
In addition to her teaching at Brock, Professor Winters shows an unparalleled commitment to education and learning through her research, service and creative works. The author of nine children’s books (poetry, picture books, non-fiction), she has been invited to present internationally. With almost 200 school visits under her belt, Professor Winters has reached more than 37,800 students worldwide.
Professor Fran Owen
Department of Child and Youth Studies/Applied Disability Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences
Professor Fran Owen has been teaching at Brock University since 2000, both in the Department of Child and Youth Studies and the Centre for Applied Disability Studies. She has created a number of unique courses in which students engage with material from a variety of perspectives, all with the goal of enhancing their ability to become more fulfilled, and ultimately more able to contribute to the community at large.
Professor Owen is dedicated to providing an outstanding learning experience for all of her students by integrating course material with current education practices in many human service fields. A colleague observes, “Her classroom brings theory to life as she calls on the practical knowledge of other professionals, families and persons with disabilities to share their real life experiences with her students.”
All three colleagues who wrote letters for her emphasize that Professor Owen’s teaching philosophy focuses on mentorship in its many forms, ranging, as one put it, “from mentorship as informed teaching, to mentorship as liberation of students’ creativity and passion.”
Professor Owen constantly challenges students to look beyond their comfort zones, and to grow beyond what they initially imagine for themselves. Consistently high student evaluations indicate how much they appreciate her teaching. As one former student writes, “it was her ability to get me engaged in the course material that changed my life … For the first time in my University career, I loved school: I had found my place, figured out what my strengths were, what my passion was.”
Last but not least, Professor Owen’s teaching philosophy emphasizes “public usefulness.” She puts her teaching to the service of the community, going beyond the confines of the university to create educational opportunities for professionals in the mental health field in Niagara and in the bi-national cross-border region.
Professor Owen, to cite one of her colleagues, is “one of those unique individuals who exemplifies what reflective and innovative teaching should be all about.”
Professor Joffre Mercier
Department of Biological Science, Faculty of Mathematics and Science
Professor Joffre Mercier started teaching at Brock University in 1988. His love for teaching was apparent then and has remained strong throughout his career. His research and teaching is centered on the neurological control of behavior. He was also instrumental in helping to develop Brock’s successful Neuroscience program.
Professor Mercier’s engagement with students is based on the intimate relationship between research and teaching. The two are inextricably bound: how we obtain evidence and how decisions are based upon this evidence. He maintains this theme at undergraduate and graduate levels, from first year Biology for non-science majors to courses for MSc and PhD students. He is passionate and unwavering about the importance of this approach to teaching.
Professor Mercier is popular and highly respected as a teacher and supervisor. Many students have stated that he is extremely dynamic, very knowledgeable about the material and compassionate about his instruction. Comments from course evaluations have included: “Dr. Mercier is an excellent prof! When you make a connection with someone, you want to do well for that person. That is my motivation in this course.” “Give the man an award. Best prof. @ Brock. No comparison.”
Over the past several years, Professor Mercier has committed to several administrative posts including Department Chair, Associate Dean, Acting Dean and now Associate Vice-President, Research. These commitments have in no way altered his desire to be the best teacher he can possibly be. He continues, and in fact demands, to offer undergraduate courses annually, as well as contributing to graduate teaching each summer. In the current year he has supervised four undergraduate and two PhD student theses.
In the true Brock “two sides of the Brain” tradition, Professor Mercier also plays multiple musical instruments and sings in an Irish band that has a strong following in Niagara.
Professor Mary Breunig
Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, Faculty of Applied Health Sciences
Professor Mary Breunig’s teaching philosophy is based on a commitment to student-centred pedagogy, on effective teaching for multiple learning styles, on connecting theory with meaningful praxis, and on encouraging students to consider the role they play as agents of social and environmental change in the world.
As a teacher, Professor Breunig has consistently encouraged students to become independent, critical and lifelong learners while engaging them in a multitude of experiential learning opportunities. Her contribution to teaching courses in leadership in parks, recreation and leisure services, in outdoor recreation theory and practices, in experiential education in outdoor recreation-to name a few-has extended beyond the classroom.
Professor Breunig, who is also director of Brock’s Social Justice Research Institute, has published numerous articles and presented several lectures in environmental education, experiential education, service learning, critical pedagogy and social justice pedagogy.
She is also a passionate advocate for turning theory into practice for effective learning. As noted by her colleagues, she is thoughtful and intentional in her efforts to engender learners who are critically aware and self-reflexive about the teaching and learning process. She challenges her students to assume responsibility for their learning and actively seeks out ways to transform the classroom from a traditional teaching environment to an environment where students take the lead in determining, for themselves, what they need to learn and how to most effectively learn it.
Professor Breunig’s experiential approach is authentic in that it is deeply entrenched in her teaching, in her scholarship, as well as the lens through which she interacts with learners within and outside of the classroom. While her expertise in recreation and leisure studies, social and environmental justice, and outdoor education are all extremely impressive on their own, it is the way she delivers these knowledges through engaged and embodied pedagogies that sets her apart from other pedagogues.
A number of professional achievements distinguish Professor Breunig’s pursuit of excellence, including the past-presidency for the Association for Experiential Education, being involved in community activism through such initiatives as the Greening Niagara School Grounds Project, and being a visiting scholar for the Transcultural European Outdoor Studies Program at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences (Oslo, Norway).
Professor Tejaswini (Teju) Herath
Department of Finance, Operations & Information Systems, Goodman School of Business
Professor Tejaswini (Teju) Herath is a recognized expert in information security and privacy with a commitment to bringing real life techniques and approaches into the classroom. Through her teaching, mentoring and student supervision, she helps deepen students’ understanding of the subject matter so they can, as she notes in her teaching philosophy, “recognize the impact of the course material on their lives as I have realized it on mine.”
Professor Herath first joined Brock University in 2003 as a lecturer in the Department of Management. In 2008, after completing her PhD in Management Science and Systems at the State University of New York Buffalo, she rejoined Brock University as an assistant professor of Information Systems in the Faculty of Business. She received tenure in July 2012. In addition to her PhD, Professor Herath also has a Masters of Science in Civil Engineering and a Masters in Management Information Systems from Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama. She received her CGA designation in 2009.
Professor Herath’s research in information security is frequently published in peer-refereed journals. From 2008-2011, she was recognized among the top 100 information systems researchers who have published in the top six information systems journals. Amongst her numerous professional distinctions, she has also received grants from Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the American National Science Foundation (NSF).
Professor Herath’s passion for her field of research plays an important role in her teaching of undergraduate and graduate students. A recent BBA graduate credits her for helping him discover his chosen career: “It’s Dr. Herath who helped me discover my career path. She has incredible insight and knowledge of the information technology field in which she eagerly shared during lectures and office hours.”
Professor Herath inspires her colleagues by constantly seeking to “elevate her research and teaching.”