John Thompson (2005)

ThompsonAffiliation at the time of the award: University of Saskatchewan, Sociology.

Citation: Forty-three years ago, after three sleepless nights worrying that he’d made a career mistake, John Thompson stepped into his first classroom; ten minutes later, he knew he wanted to teach for the rest of his life. And his sociology students –who, one after the other, write that his courses teach them mindfulness, openness, and civic responsibility — are very lucky that he did. He is the recipient of four major awards for teaching.

A leader on his campus and beyond, John has dedicated himself to changing the way student learning and faculty teaching are valued. His presentations, workshops and publications on topics such as the vocation, the evaluation, and the scholarship of teaching have that underlying theme in common: revaluing undergraduate education through attention to student development, and especially through attention to writing as critical thinking.

In fact, he encourages extensive student writing, from informal end-of-class “two-minute memos” to three-stage formal essays; and he regularly enters into the risk and vulnerability of student learning by composing an essay “live” as the students watch him write. And John recognizes the power of story in teaching, but, as one of his nominators writes, his goal, “rather than having students remember his stories, is for students to hear their own.”