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Award recognizes excellence in teaching

By Courtenay Griffin

Memorial University’s President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching is presented annually, and recognizes excellence in teaching over an extended period of years. It honours faculty who have demonstrated creativity and enthusiastic commitment to teaching, and have animated student interest in their discipline.

Since 1989 Memorial has presented the award to 44 deserving faculty, and for Dr. Chris Sharpe, professor in the Department of Geography and a 2007 recipient, winning the President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching was the highlight of his long career.

“Having no formal training in pedagogy, I consider my winning the award as a vindication of my self-taught methods of instruction and evaluation, which have incorporated a bit of the new technology and some different approaches over the years,” he said. “For me, it is a reward for consistent enthusiasm and dedication to what I see as the principal purpose of a university education.”

In Dr. Sharpe’s case, five students previously unknown to each other met in one of his courses, and were so inspired by his teaching that they united to put forward his nomination.

“If I have a philosophy of teaching, it’s that I expect students to come to university to learn, and my job is to help them do that,” he said. “Not to ‘teach’ them stuff, but to help them learn how to think critically, write clearly and to cherish their ability to do all these things. I try to pass on my enthusiasm for the subject, challenging them to think for themselves.”

Prof. Peggy Coady, Faculty of Business Administration, and 2004 recipient of the award said winning provided her with more than positive feedback on her teaching approach. It benefited her students as well.

“Receiving this award enabled me to focus on what accounting students find beneficial for their learning,” she said, “and it provided great feedback on my teaching approach. I also used the monetary award to support the technology I use for teaching and to help prepare students for international case competitions.”

Winners of the teaching award receive $5,000 for the advancement of teaching, which is contributed by Alumni Affairs and Development, and Distance Education and Learning Technologies (DELT). Recipients also receive travel funds from the Office of the President to attend a teaching conference of their choice.

Dr. Kjellrun Hestekin, faculty member with the School of Music and also a 2004 winner, used award funds to purchase a computer system and music software to advance her teaching.

“This new equipment allows me to better prepare materials for instructional use and our online entrance exams,” said Dr. Hestekin, “ I can now buy and store complex music pieces for my classes that are not usually sold in stores. Thanks to the award’s travel allowance, I also attended the Association of Atlantic Universities’ Teaching Showcase that year.”

The Office of the President is now inviting faculty, students and staff to nominate excellent teachers for the 2009 awards. The completed nomination form and 10 letters of support must be submitted by the coordinating nominator by the March 23 deadline. The award submissions will be co-ordinated by DELT’s Instructional Development Office.

To submit a nomination, or to learn more about the award and nomination process, contact Elizabeth Noseworthy at, 737-7540, or visit