Three U of T faculty members have received recognition from the Ontario Confederation of Faculty Associations for their skills in the classroom.
Professors Susan McCahan of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Shafique Virani of Historical Studies at UTM, and Michael Wiley of anatomy are recipients of the 2010 OCUFA Teaching and Academic Librarianship Awards. Approximately seven awards are given annually to teachers who excel in the classroom.
“Passionate and engaged teachers are the foundation of the high-quality universities so important to Ontario’s success,” said Professor Mark Langer, president of OCUFA, in a press release. “This year’s award winners exemplify the spirit of leadership and innovation that makes for an excellent learning experience at our province’s institutions.”
Susan McCahan was a teaching assistant before becoming a professor in 1992, teaching in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department and later focusing on energy systems and rapid-phase change. She currently researches engineering education, trying to determine exactly what makes teaching environments accessible or inaccessible to people of various backgrounds.
“[Learning] empowers people to increase the capacity they have for being successful or reaching the goals they want to reach in their lives,” said McCahan. She believes a good teacher should “get all the basics right” and “meet all the expectations set out.” She suggested teachers “be really selective of what is covered in lecture.”
McCahan also believes that there’s an art to teaching. “A well-run class has some of the elements that a piece of really meaningful art has, in that it is transformational on both an emotional and intellectual level.”
McCahan has also won an Alan Blizzard Award, a 3M National Teaching Fellowship. He has also been awarded a U of T President’s Teaching award and a Medal of Distinction from Engineers Canada.
Shafique Virani has taught everywhere from the banks of the Ganges to Abu Dhabi. He began teaching at Harvard in 2001 before continuting at Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates in 2004. In 2006, he moved to Toronto to teach Historical and Religious Studies at U of T Mississauga. This year, he became the Chair of Historical Studies.
“I don’t even think of it as teaching, I think of it as learning,” he said. “People have such fascinating ideas, and if you can draw those ideas out of them, you can learn so much.” Indeed, the learning that comes with teaching is Shafique’s motivation for pursuing the profession.
“If you enjoy what you’re doing, you’re gonna put time and effort into it,” said Virani. “In today’s world…education is really about teaching people how to ask the right questions and how to find answers themselves.”
Virani received a Distinction In Teaching Award every year he was at Harvard, as well as receiving a Merit Award at both Harvard and Zayed. He was also a finalist for the Joseph Levinson Memorial Teaching Prize.
Michael Wiley has been an anatomy professor at U of T since 1976, teaching subjects such as gross anatomy, neuroanatomy, embryology, and histology.
When teaching he tries to “put [himself] in the students’ position and to try to identify when the students aren’t getting an understanding of the material that I am trying to teach. I’m not doing my job if you’re not getting the point, so I’m going to make whatever adjustments are necessary to teach what I’m trying to teach.” He believes it important to “be aware of how well the students are assimilating what you’re trying to teach.”
He is largely responsible for introducing a virtual microscope program called Mscope to his histology students. He is a supporter of integrating technology into the classroom.
“New technologies offer many opportunities to teach in different ways,” he said. “As students become more and more familiar with using technology in their extra-curricular life, I think they become more comfortable with learning using new technology and less comfortable with the old media-textbooks and lectures and so on.”
Wiley also received the 2010 President’s Teaching award.