WE DIDN'T HEAR FROM David Harpp this autumn and I think that's a good sign. Harpp, a chemistry professor who has earned enough teaching prizes to fill a good-sized station wagon, used to regularly send notes to the McGill Reporter around this time of year.
The gist of his messages was always the same -- when were we going to get around to writing about McGill's teaching award winners? Harpp cares passionately about good teaching and he worried that the fine art of instructing young minds wasn't receiving its proper due in the pages of our newspaper.
For the last several years, we've produced annual coverage of McGill's teaching award winners. David Harpp gives us the benefit of the doubt now. It's a bittersweet task. As former university students ourselves, we know full well what a tremendous difference a talented teacher can make to a course.
On the other hand, McGill gives out an awful lot of teaching awards. We receive campus newspapers from several other North American universities and I've yet to spot an institution that hands out anywhere near as many teaching awards as McGill does. We're crazy for teaching awards around here. From a purely selfish perspective, it's a bit of a headache tracking down the 12 or so winners every year.
The pleasure in the task comes from the yearly realization that McGill does care a great deal about teaching. There are failings to be sure (the number of courses encumbered by huge enrolments, for instance), but there is also a widespread acceptance of the notion that good teaching is central to McGill's mission. Our research stars are also often our teaching stars. That isn't always the case at other schools.
As we did last year, we asked McGill's most recent teaching award winners to talk a little about their classroom experiences. We asked them about the teachers who inspired them and we queried them about what they want their own students to take away from their courses. Owen Egan took photos of all the winners for us.
In addition, associate editor Bronwyn Chester spent some time with psychiatry professor Ruth Russell, who recently earned a national award for her accomplishments as a pedagogue. Writer Sylvain Comeau interviewed Professor Janet Donald from the Centre for University Teaching and Learning. Donald published a book last year in which she interviewed administrators and professors from other research-intensive universities, chronicling their thoughts on how to promote good teaching.
We hope you enjoy our teaching supplement.