Wilfrid Laurier University is celebrating seven instructors and learning professionals who inspire fellow educators and elevate student experiences through outstanding approaches to teaching and learning.
Laurier’s most prestigious teaching awards program, the Donald F. Morgenson Awards for Teaching Excellence honour the legacy of Laurier Professor Emeritus Donald Morgenson, a long-time, beloved faculty member who passed away in 2017.
Recipients of Laurier’s 2021 Donald F. Morgenson Faculty Awards for Teaching Excellence include:
In lieu of the traditional Donald F. Morgenson Awards for Teaching Excellence presentation event, which can’t be held this year due to COVID-19, the 2021 recipients will receive an additional Teaching and Learning grant to support further teaching development and innovation. Additional opportunities to recognize and celebrate recipients will be announced later in the year.
Associate Professor and Graduate Coordinator, Chemistry and Biochemistry
During her 14 years at Laurier, Lillian DeBruin has demonstrated a teaching practice rooted in perseverance, reflection and care to create exceptional learning experiences for her students. DeBruin’s commitment to her craft is shown through the meticulous way she builds her course materials and assessments. Through continuous refinement and improvement, DeBruin contributes to an environment of academic excellence and professional development.
“I am very honoured to be recognized for my teaching and I am truly grateful for all of the support from my mentors, colleagues and especially my students,” says DeBruin. “I feel revitalized and look forward to being back on campus in the classroom as soon as it’s safe.”
Associate Professor, Indigenous Studies | AVP: Indigenous Initiatives
Darren Thomas’ teaching approach has been described as transformational for the way he ignites passion in his students to help them achieve their personal and academic goals. Thomas embeds Indigeneity, reflection and compassion into his teaching, leading to a positive impact on the lives of his students.
Thomas began teaching at Laurier four years ago and was recently named Laurier's associate vice-president: Indigenous Initiatives.
“I am humbled to be receiving the early career excellence in teaching award, especially given its namesake as I had the pleasure of taking two undergraduate courses with Dr. Morgenson,” says Thomas. “To have my name mentioned alongside his is an incredible honour.”
Associate Professor, Mathematics | Co-Program Director, Shad Laurier
Sunny Wang teaches in the Department of Mathematics, where she has been integrating innovative approaches into her statistics and data science courses for five years.
Wang uses reflection in her teaching and cultivates personal connections to deepen student learning.
“As the disciplines of statistics and data science are collaborative endeavors, this award actually recognizes teamwork from a group that consists of my dear students, colleagues, industry partners and many other staff members, who provide tremendous support and always inspire me to be innovative in my teaching,” says Wang.
Wang’s experiential teaching innovations, including practical projects, field trips and guest lectures, have reduced barriers to learning and created opportunities for students to apply their knowledge and skills to real-world problems by connecting with external industry partners.
Associate Professor and Program Coordinator, Human Rights and Human Diversity
Andrew M. Robinson brings internationalization into every aspect of his work at Laurier. Over 17 years, he has forged strong relationships in local communities and around the globe, working with colleagues to create international internships in Ghana and hosting international events that bring people from around the world to Laurier’s Brantford campus.
“All of my efforts to improve my teaching and to create opportunities for undergraduate students are answers to this question: ‘How can I best serve my students?’” says Robinson. “Through the nomination process for this award, I was reminded of how many students and colleagues understand what I have been trying to do. For that, I am truly grateful and encouraged.”
Manager: Recruitment, Retention, Communication, Faculty of Arts
Crystal Shadwell co-developed and currently manages the Strategies for Academic Success (SAS) program, which equips students facing academic challenges stemming from diverse personal and societal factors with the tools to overcome these struggles and achieve renewed academic success. The SAS program is one of only seven of its kind in Canada.
“I am incredibly humbled and grateful to be recognized in the company of such amazing fellow educators,” says Shadwell. “Many of the past recipients of this award are instructors I have been fortunate to learn from, who have shaped me into the educator I am today, starting from my very first semester on campus in 2004 when I sat in Introduction to Psychology with Dr. Morgenson himself.”
Shadwell says she is grateful for Laurier’s Teaching and Learning team which celebrates the teaching done “beyond the walls of the conventional classroom.”
Associate Professor and Graduate Program Coordinator, Biology
For 10 years, Allison McDonald has shown a commitment to student learning across every aspect of her work, from innovative curriculum design to extensive graduate mentorship. Her use of universal design and innovative, flexible assessment strategies make McDonald’s classrooms more inclusive.
“The things that I love most about working at Laurier are the opportunity to mentor students through my teaching and research activities and the ability to interact with and serve the Laurier and broader communities,” says McDonald. “It’s wonderful to know that my efforts have had an impact in this way.”
McDonald also contributes to knowledge development through her blog, where she promotes scientific literacy and advocates for equity and inclusion in the scientific community.
Associate Professor, Religion and Culture
Meena Sharify-Funk has taught in the Department of Religion and Culture at Laurier since 2007, mentoring undergraduate and graduate students at different stages of their academic journeys along the way.
Sharify-Funk’s thoughtful and purposeful approach to mentorship, along with her incredible dedication to students, has made a significant impact. She is credited with an empathetic and compassionate approach to mentorship that develops, recognizes and honours each individual student as they pursue academic and personal goals.
“A mentor of mine once said, ‘We come to the university because of one another. We are one another’s most important resource on the road of learning,’” says Sharify-Funk. “I am grateful to all of my students and colleagues who walk this road with me and enliven the practice of dialogical wisdom at Laurier and beyond.”