Education celebrates its own at teaching and research awards

Not many instructors can claim to have received teaching evaluations from their students that included the words “Woop! Woop!” But Cathryn van Kessel, instructor and PhD student in the Department of Secondary Education, sure can.

At the annual Faculty of Education Awards gala held at the University of Alberta on April 14, van Kessel was one of seven outstanding professors and instructors to receive an award for excellence in teaching or research.

In introducing van Kessel as a recipient of a Graduate Student Teaching Award, associate chair of Secondary Education Bill Dunn mentioned the “Woop! Woop!” and commented, “The Urban Dictionary defines ‘woop woop’ as an expression designed to express approval, happiness, joy, and/or excitement … When students express that about their instructors, it is surely a sign of exceptional teaching.”

Taking the podium to receive her award, van Kessel said she considered herself to be in a fortunate position, being able to teach others while also being a graduate student who gets to learn from some of the best education scholars around.

Jeff Kuntz, another PhD student and instructor in the Department of Secondary Education recognized with a Graduate Student Teaching Award, was lauded for bringing life and humour to an introductory education course with a (normally) dreaded 8 a.m. start time.

Dunn read out a teaching evaluation for Kuntz which elicited knowing chuckles from the audience: “Jeff was a fantastic instructor! He was the reason I made an effort to make it to 8 a.m. class.”

Associate professor Dinesh Rathi of the School of Library and Information Studies was awarded the Coutts-Clarke Research Fellowship, presented to him by Patricia Boechler, Associate Dean, Research. In his speech, Rathi focused on the importance of having a supportive family, parents who encouraged him to pursue higher education, and a network of generous colleagues across the faculty.

Jason Wallin, associate professor in Secondary Education, received the Undergraduate Teaching Award from Clive Hickson, Chair of the Faculty Teaching Awards Committee, who praised him for his exceptional professionalism and passion for training new educators.

Hickson quoted Wallin’s teaching philosophy, which reads in part: “Throughout my work with students, I insist that the curriculum is not something to be done, it must first be made. While challenging students' preconceived notions and biases, my work with pre-service teachers concomitantly utilizes a strengths-based approach connecting their personal lives, interests and skills to the work of the classroom.”

Feature Image: Patricia Boechler, Associate Dean (Research), presents the Coutts-Clarke Research Fellowship award to professor Dinesh Rathi.