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Laurier honours three professors with teaching awards

Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing

May 12/08

Three members of the Laurier community are being recognized with peer-nominated awards for their outstanding commitment to teaching.

Dr. Mary-Louise Byrne is the recipient of the 2008 Award for Teaching Excellence in the full-time faculty category, and Professor Camie Condon will receive the award in the part-time category. Dr. Stephen Connor is the first recipient of the newly established Teaching Assistant Award of Excellence, in the graduate category.

“These awards celebrate exceptional instructors at Laurier, emphasizing the importance we place on the highest quality instruction,” said Dr. Max Blouw, president of Wilfrid Laurier University. “Skilled and knowledgeable teachers enhance the learning environment for our students. They are at the foundation of the outstanding experience that students enjoy at this university.”

Dr. Mary-Louise Byrne, an associate professor and chair of the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, earned her PhD in geography from McMaster University in 1992. She is known as a dedicated instructor with an ability to capture the attention of her students through her knowledge, humour and passion for the subject.

“Dr. Byrne’s lectures are nothing short of a Broadway play; she gets more and more excited as the lecture progresses,” Anthony Steffler, a student who has taken several of Byrne’s classes, said in his recommendation letter.

Outside of the classroom, Byrne is a strong voice for the field, co-authoring the Canadian volume of an international textbook and accompanying instructor’s manual on physical geography called Geosystems: An Introduction to Physical Geography. She is also an active member of Senate, the Board of Governors, and several senior search committees. She has supervised 22 undergraduate theses, nine master’s theses (with two more in progress), and four PhD theses (all in progress).

“Teaching must be a labour of love for her, as there is no other way to explain her excellence in this field while accomplishing so much elsewhere,” dean of arts Dr. David Docherty said in his support letter.

Camie Condon, a part-time professor in the Department of Psychology, earned her MSc from the University of Liverpool and is currently working towards her PhD in psychology. She is widely regarded as an approachable, thoughtful and organized instructor, who consistently receives above-average scores on course evaluations.

“Professor Condon brings a humanistic approach to every lesson by relating real-life examples that are pertinent to the topic,” said Erin Stewart, a third-year Laurier Brantford student. “She puts an abundance of effort into her lessons and lectures, going above and beyond that of most professors.”

Condon believes that it is her responsibility as a teacher to “light a fire” within each student. “My aim is to create material and experiences in a way that students are able to learn at all levels and build their confidence,” she said.

In addition to consistently refreshing her skills through seminars, workshops and continuing education courses, Condon has acted as a reviewer for textbooks in the field of criminology and she co-authored the Canadian edition of an introductory text for courses in health and physical activity called Total Fitness and Wellness.

“It is clear that Camie Condon has a passion for life-long learning, and that she inspires the same kind of passion in her students through her teaching and mentoring activities,” said psychology professor and department chair, Dr. Mark Pancer.

Dr. Stephen Connor, a teaching assistant in the Department of History, earned his PhD in history from Laurier in 2007. He has been a lecturer and tutorial leader for 14 different history courses over the last seven years. His deep knowledge and his commitment to his students have made him a role model and mentor, making the classes he teaches popular choices among students. His teaching style sets him apart from other instructors—he stresses critical analysis and understanding, rather than memorization of dates and names.

“I rarely, if ever, feel as if I’m simply being taught information. Instead, I am taught how to question and analyze and learn on my own,” student Clara Suh said of Connor. “It has been one of the most valuable, eye-opening lessons of my four years at Laurier.”

Connor is actively involved in the Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies, and has participated in sessions run by the Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Holocaust Education Foundation to discuss, among his peers, the best strategies for teaching subjects like the Holocaust.

“I tell my students they are junior historians and, as such, they need to understand not only what happened and why, but also the way in which that history has been approached by historians of different generations,” said Connor.

All three recipients will receive their awards at Laurier’s spring convocation in June.


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