Teaching awards celebrate faculty and instructor excellence

As the Brock community celebrates the successes of its newest graduates, Convocation also offers a moment to honour the contributions of faculty members and sessional instructors.

In 2019, the Faculty of Education Award for Excellence in Teaching recognizes Shelley Griffin, Associate Professor, while Nancy Gallacher (BEd ’81, MEd ’89) has received the Faculty’s Sessional Teaching Award.

“I’m very humbled to receive this award. We have many great teacher educators in the Faculty,” said Griffin.

Griffin, who has been at Brock for 12 years, is Brock’s only faculty member teaching music education. She works primarily on elementary music education with teacher candidates in the Consecutive Teacher Education and Concurrent Teacher Education programs. In addition, she supervises graduate students.

For many of her students, music education is intimidating.

“There’s an incredible amount of hesitancy when students cross the threshold into my classroom,” said Griffin, who explains that teacher candidates often lack confidence in their musical abilities. In Griffin’s class, many will need to learn music fundamentals as well as how to teach them to children.

“We know that music does something for our heart and soul that nothing else can do,” said Griffin. “It’s important for us to educate the whole child in a variety of intelligences, one of which is music.”

A central part of Griffin’s teaching is focused on vulnerability and the impact that prior experience has on music teacher identity. She focuses on building community with teacher candidates

Griffin has developed a foundational component to music education curriculum making using a called body mapping. Through this process, which originated in the health and sciences field, Griffin works with teacher candidates to explore how their daily informal and formal music experiences shape their music teaching practices.

“It really helps them to begin to understand the role of music in their daily lives,” said Griffin. “They begin to realize that they can approach their teaching not from a deficit model of what they don’t know, but what they do bring into the classroom.”

For Griffin, understanding personal experiences is valuable for students in shaping their identity as teachers. Her own personal experiences are intertwined with her role as an educator and a teacher educator.

Growing up in Prince Edward Island (PEI), Griffin has been engaged in music from an early age with classical training in piano and flute She completed a BMus from the University of Prince Edward Island and an MEd and PhD at the University of Alberta.

Before coming to Brock, Griffin taught in the Department of Music for the University of Prince Edward Island and in the Department of Elementary Education for the University of Alberta. She has taught music in elementary schools in PEI. In addition to her professorial role at Brock, Griffin is an active musician in the Niagara region, performing regularly as a flutist and soprano with Avanti Chamber Singers.

Nancy Gallacher and Michael Owen, Dean of Brock's Faculty of Education

Nancy Gallacher and Michael Owen, Dean of Brock’s Faculty of Education.

Like Griffin, Gallacher is humbled by her award.

“I’m not a person who seeks recognition,” said Gallacher. She is an instructor for the Intro to Teaching & Learning, Schools and Communities course in the Concurrent Teacher Education program. Gallacher has also been an instructor for the Consecutive Teacher Education program and Additional Qualifications courses for Brock.

“It’s incredibly gratifying that peers and students have recognized the enthusiasm I have and the passion that I try to give. I see it as a professional obligation to pass on my philosophy about what makes a good teacher a good teacher.”

For Gallacher, passion is what makes an educator great. She encourages the teacher candidates she works with to have passion. Her goal is to help each student to realize success as an individual and meet their goals.

Outside the classroom, Gallacher provides mentorship and support to current and past students, such as providing advice on resumes and interview skills. She has also been a speaker at the Brock Concurrent Education Student Council Annual Conference eight times and Orientation Day presenter for first year Concurrent teacher candidates.

Gallacher is dedicated to ensuring future educators are prepared for the role they play in the lives of all children in communities around the world.

“I tell my teacher candidates annually that one of the motivations I have to be at Brock educating teachers is my grandchildren. I want to think that each of them is going to have the very best teacher ever. If I can have a part in helping educate the very best teachers, I’m proud to do that.”

Gallacher began instructing the teaching methods course 15 years ago after she retired from her role as an elementary school principal with the District School Board of Niagara. Her career spans more than 30 years and has included working as a classroom teacher and gifted consultant in several school boards. She sees passing on her experience, knowledge, passion and values to Brock’s teacher candidates as part of her legacy.

Gallacher believes in lifelong learning and continually learns from her Brock teacher candidates and peers. She received a BEd in 1981 and an MEd in 1989 from Brock. Gallacher graduated from the Toronto Teachers College in 1972 and also has a BA from York University.

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