Sudents Speak: Lives Transformed by Teachers -
Paroles d'étudiants:
Des vies transformées par des enseignants


For twenty-five years, 3M Canada has sponsored the 3M National Teaching Fellowship, the foremost teaching award in Canada. This year, the Fellowship’s silver jubilee celebration is inspired by the theme – “Giving Back.” In this book, Fellows are giving back to 3M Canada and to their students inspiring evidence of the power of the 3M National Teaching Fellowship. The book reproduces the voices of students as they recall what it meant to be taught by a 3M Teaching Fellow.

Our newer partners, Studentawards Inc. and Maclean’s magazine, through their support and encouragement, have demonstrated their commitment to teaching excellence and to the original goals of the 3M Fellowship. Thank you, too.

The students who contributed to this book have written from every province in Canada, from abroad, and from a wide range of disciplines and professions. They want their identities and those of their professors to remain anonymous, as they do not envision the book as a collection of self-congratulatory tributes to individuals. Instead, they believe 3M Canada, Studentawards Inc., Maclean’s, and future students can be inspired by their stories of discovery, inspiration, and transformation. This book resonates with gratitude.

The Council of the 3M National Teaching Fellows
Ron Marken, Editor
1987 3M National Teaching Fellow
c. June 2010

The Words of the Students – Part C

As a student I had the privilege of being introduced to Sociological theory by Dr. X. I remember distinctly feeling privileged to be learning from someone whose knowledge of the discipline was shared so fervently, with sophistication and judiciousness. Dr. X has an extraordinary sense of dramatic value and is an artist as a storyteller. I remember stories he told to my class over15 years ago—I still tell a few in my own classroom. Dr. X brings stories to life, driving home the sociological literature, and his lively delivery was sometimes expressed by being able to hear him lecture at least three or four classrooms away, doors shut! He also thought a good laugh now and then would help us learn—or help us love to learn!
Professor X’s classroom is also a place for respectful and exhilarating exchange, where students’ lives and experiences are respected and moved towards making a difference in academic scholarship, the world and their lives. He shows a willingness to learn from students, respecting everyone as equal in the process of learning. He seems enthused about every course and every student he teaches.
Listening to students speak about him (and I have listened to many) is both intense and telling. I hear stories, not only about the “greatest professor I’ve ever had,” but also on the positive impact Dr. X had on their knowledge of sociology, their ability to think critically, pushing themselves academically. He has motivated and inspired them in their life directions, passions and soulful journeys. Dr. X embodies Joseph Campbell’s statement on teaching: “The job of an educator is to teach students to see the vitality in themselves.”

~ Assistant Professor Department of Sociology

My name is John, and I am a doctor. I finished my studies a year and a half ago. When I first met Prof. X, I was a sixth- year student. I was very excited to meet him, because I heard great stories about him as a person, a doctor, and a teacher.
The first and most important thing he taught me, in my opinion, is THINKING. Prof. X makes you think. He guides you through your thoughts and ideas and teaches you how to choose the right one.
Along with thinking, Prof. X makes you do things on your own, while guiding and teaching you to find the best way to do those things.
Another thing is being consistent. It can’t be taken for granted and is one of the things that will help you achieve your goals in life.
To give a taste of how special and extraordinary Prof X is, I’ll tell you about one of our meetings:
He was supposed to guide me through my final thesis. He decided he wanted to teach me more than what I had to learn for my thesis. Prof. X prepared a few ER scenarios and we discussed them. Talking with Prof. X made me feel that I was being given tools – tools for life as a doctor and as a person.
I tried to think how to thank him. The greatest compliment I could find was that I hope that someday I’ll be able to teach and guide others the way he does.
Prof. X is more than a teacher. He is a mentor and a role model.

~ Practicing Physician MD

Dr. X could be a real villain, forcing me to submit draft after draft after draft until it was perfect. Asking me to speak again and again and again until it is perfectly articulated. Demanding me to dig deeper and deeper and deeper until I fully understand the topic. Anytime I am doing anything, I pretend she is there, demanding perfection, and to this I attribute all of my success.

~ Communications Commissioner

Dr. X was my Jedi Master during my training as a young padawan learner (apprentice for you non-Star Wars fans) in emergency medicine. But unlike the traditional “master – student” hierarchy, Dr. X welcomed me as a junior colleague. This was not only important to my development as an independently practicing physician, it demonstrated a teaching model that humanized medical education, and it is something that I use with my own students. This was a significant departure from the old style of shame-based teaching where one is made to feel like an insignificant, sniveling, and burdensome peon. Dr. X saw me as a human being first and a student second. I was treated as an equal – a much less experienced, less knowledgeable and less skilled equal – but an equal nevertheless. This was the foundation of an educational relationship that allowed me to feel encouraged, inspired, respected, and protected. You could not have a better learning environment. I consider myself to be extremely fortunate to have been a student under the elite tutelage of Professor X. Without him, I would not have grasped both the art and science of medicine as I do now. Through him, I discovered that the application of compassion was as important (if not more so) as being able to wield a scalpel (or light sabre). I am very proud to pass on Dr. X’s teaching philosophy to the next generation of medical educators.

~ Professor & Head, Department of Emergency Medicine

After five minutes of listening to what would be my professor for this following semester I had already made an opinion on the course. I said to myself, “This course is not going to be fun; here is another language teacher who only speaks the language that is taught.” I’m not particularly fond of that method, because I really feel that you spend more time asking the teacher, “What does X, Y and Z mean?” instead of learning the proper grammar and syntax of that language. Soon, I would realize I was wrong. After Professor X had been talking for an hour, everybody, including myself, understood every word she said. She explained herself as she went along as if she knew our level of understanding. She took us from the ground and made sure to take us to the next level. She came into class with a devotion to make us learn, to make us better while having fun. We did not only learn grammar, but we also learned how to communicate and cherish differences and I think that is the main aspect of Dr. X’s way of teaching. I can only finish by honestly saying that Professor X is one of few teachers I really appreciate.

~ Former Student

I entered X College at age 17 and came from a school where regurgitating information was all that was required on tests. I panicked on my first chemistry midterm when there were questions I had never seen before. Dr. X recognized this and took me aside and explained to me that there would always be questions that required synthesizing of information, but he assured me that I had the building blocks and just needed to assemble them. He helped me learn to calm down and think these things through.

Dr. X was bicycling to school through the winter as a professor. I was doing this as a student, but only because I was short on money. I continued to cycle to work once money was no longer an issue, keeping his roll model in mind.
Chemistry was a difficult subject for me and I probably spent as much time on that subject as on my other four courses combined. Because Dr. X was such a great teacher I wanted to learn chemistry. I got off to a very slow start. I expect my classmates would be very surprised to hear I went on to become a tenure track university professor before leaving to enter my own business. I credit a good part of my feeling able to continue on to graduate school to the teaching and encouragement of Dr. X during my undergraduate training.

Dr. X is a brilliant and organized man. He is no absent-minded professor, but I still chuckle at the thought of him hooking a Bunsen burner to a water line in the chemistry lab and shooting water to the ceiling accidentally when his wife was due to go into labor with their first child. I guess there was at least one thing that could distract him during teaching. I remember him as well for the discussions with us on politics, the environment, the influence of the media, and ethics. His interests were so broad and he was happy to engage students on so many levels. I think I started listening to Bruce Coburn music because of exposure to his quotes in presentations by Dr. X.

My wife and I have since started and funded the “Professor X Science Scholarship” because he has given so much to me. When my second daughter was eleven days old she was in hospital for open-heart surgery having been airlifted from Vancouver the day after she was born with a serious heart defect (hypoplastic left heart syndrome). My professor came to see me at that time. This was sixteen years after I had left his classroom.

~ Professor

I was very fortunate to have had Dr. X as a teacher and mentor in two post-graduate courses in academic medicine. He taught me much more than the book knowledge required for those courses. Mostly, he taught me by example what it takes to be a great teacher: a passion for learning, intellectual honesty, remarkable humility despite his numerous awards and accomplishments, and a genuine caring for his students. I once asked him why teachers like him give so much of themselves to their students. He said, “That is what teachers do.”

And so he has inspired a next generation of teachers who are passionate and caring, wishing to share these gifts they have so generously received from outstanding teachers like Dr. X.

~ Director Centre for Family Medicine

Professor X taught the Teaching and Learning course at the University of X, which I took the first year I started as a new faculty member. It was my oasis every week to sit in her class and learn about teaching! She was laid back and easy going and challenging and thoughtful all at the same time. It was an inspirational course and she made it so. She has been a mentor and friend since, a relationship I value very highly and feel very privileged to have. I am still learning from her seventeen years later!

~ Associate Professor

Dr. X is one of the most dedicated teachers I have ever known. Several years ago, he had a significant health problem. As I lived some distance away, I sent him a book of Herman cartoons to help cheer him and pass the time while he was recovering in hospital. Imagine my concern when I received an email from him a few days later saying he would be happy to review and comment on my project as soon as he was able. A package including a PowerPoint presentation and handouts for the presentation arrived at my clinic, but the courier had inadvertently switched my conference lecture with another package. What I never understood was what the conference staff thought when they opened my presentation and handout and found a book of cartoons.

~ Associate Professor Discipline of Family Medicine

As a student, being in Dr. X’s classroom is a truly empowering experience. Her engaging teaching style shows the importance of a constant student-teacher dialogue. With her, there are no specific roles or expected answers. Her probing mind will keep you on your toes and her dynamic attitude ensures that nobody stays quiet! Her energy, her passion, and her love for the challenges of teaching make her an outstanding professor who, even after many years of experience, still has the fire of a newly-graduated teacher!

~ Graduate Student

I will always remember my first moments in his classroom.

He had a way of filling up the space and making it welcoming for all of his students. Dr. X has a gentle manner in his teaching. There was always something thoughtful and engaging about his classroom. I remember that there were never wrong answers, and one of his greatest skills was helping students to work through their thinking about a topic or issues in ways that were more like professional development.

Learning happened out loud and in a supportive environment. You were always encouraged to speak about what you were learning and knowledge was never something that was presented like you were passive recipients banking everything presented; instead the classroom was a space of active engagement.

I was also lucky enough to be invited to do some research with Professor X and through his mentorship had my first tastes of academic research. I was always treated as a full participant in his research projects and my contributions were always welcomed and guided. I also had my first experiences of graduate teaching when he hired me to be his assistant. Working with him was a joy, he always struck a fine balance between guiding and letting me fly on my own and incorporate my own ideas.

He always encouraged us to think about becoming lifelong learners, and that thinking and learning about teaching didn’t stop when you left your classroom. Reflection on your teaching practice happened continually. In my years since I was a student, his name has reverberated. I still find myself referring students to some of the same texts that Dr. X referred me to more than ten years ago, but his teaching has always stayed relevant. An important lesson that I learned from Professor X was to always reflect on my teaching practice, to always strive to be a better teacher. This is a lesson I have taken with me into my own practice as a university professor.

~ Professor

I took Professor X’s finance class towards the end of my MBA program. His teaching is exceptional. He really opened my thinking and managed to present the subject in a whole new context. By showing that there is always more to a topic than the obvious he also provoked my interest in academic research. His intellect and charisma still make him one of the best discussion partners I could possibly imagine.

~ Chair, Strategic Management and
Organization Graduate School of Management

I haven’t learn English in school. Actually, I learned English myself. This is the result of my wish to communicate with people, to understand with them. “The heart of the teacher” was a title of one article that Prof. X give as a reading material. “Think like a teacher.” During the reading I have realized that the words describe in best way how was I felt in the classroom. My desire was to help my students, to try to give them competitive knowledge and first of all a sense that someone take care. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the support to make that change and to show that with a little will we can do remarkable things. For me, the best reward in classroom was the shine in the eyes of students when we make that connection, when they realize that school and learning can be fun and enjoying. I think that human touch can break the strongest walls. I thank Prof X for those words that I “think like a teacher,” I couldn’t received better compliment.

~ Former International Student

I can honestly say that I have learnt more from Dr. X than I have in any other class or from any other professor. Dr. X is first and foremost passionate about what she knows and about what she teaches. This is most evident in the rich learning atmosphere she creates in her classes and in her ability to invoke and encourage a similar passion to learn in her students. Not only can I clearly remember what she taught me in my second, third, and fourth years, but also I am certain I will remember it throughout my life.

I want to underline that it is about so much more than just the subject matter Dr. X teaches. It is about the way she teaches it. She challenges students in a most original manner that enables one to look at a single word, at language, and the world they were built on, in an utterly new and fascinating way.

She stakes an interest in her students’ continuing pursuit of education long after the course is over. Dr. X goes above and beyond what is required or expected and consistently exemplifies what a great professor should be. I am honoured, privileged, and extraordinarily lucky to have had Dr. X as a professor. I am also certain that even when a course is over, to the majority of her former, present, and future students and, especially to me, she will always and forever be regarded as Our Teacher.

~ Law Student

All I know is that you are most likely to remember the instances that move or inspire you. It is no wonder then that I learned most in my experiences with Dr. X. Her passion, humour, and knowledge for the subjects she teaches have been enough to fill her classrooms to capacity, but it is her ability to motivate and spark her students that has them coming back semester after semester. I truly believe that an excellent professor will inspire her or his students – but an exceptional professor like Dr. X empowers her students to inspire others.

~ Flight Attendant

Many professors “teach” to undergraduates by reading aloud the textbook or PowerPoint slides, verbatim. Professor X’s gift is that his lectures speak to those students who truly wish to learn. In doing so, he also sparks interest and motivates students who are simply looking for a course credit.

In my undergraduate years, I took Professor X’s course in computer architecture. After illustrating a circuit’s design, he would ask us to identify its benefits and drawbacks, and challenge us to improve upon it. Professor X’s lecturing style was so appealing, students in other sections (not taught by Professor X) would sit in on his lectures. The number of students was so large, it exceeded the maximum occupancy of the lecture hall and posed a fire hazard.

As a graduate student, I had the privilege of working with Professor X as a teaching assistant. Not only is he quick to share his teaching advice, he also welcomes ideas for improvement in course matters. Teaching is obviously Professor X’s passion.

~ Former student