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3 people presenting at the Students' Teacher Recognition Reception.

From left to right, Dr. Merissa Daborn, Faculty of Arts, Indigenous Studies, outstanding teacher, Lydia Gork, Faculty of Arts, Indigenous Studies, outstanding student, Michelle Davidson, Kelvin High School, outstanding teacher

Students’ Teacher Recognition Reception returns in-person to celebrate educators

44 exceptional educators honoured by UM graduating students

May 12, 2023 — 

A collective murmur of delight rippled through the room as Carly Proctor spoke of her Grade 1 teacher and the solid academic foundation he provided for her 35 years ago at École Sun Valley School. 

“Mr. Wilcox sparked in me a love for reading, writing, and learning that persists today,” she said. “Since I was only six at the time, I don’t remember any specific stories or words of wisdom he imparted, but what I do remember is how I felt in his classroom. The world felt bigger with every new thing that I learned.”

Proctor, who graduates this spring with a Master of Science in Rehabilitation Sciences, was speaking at this year’s Students’ Teacher Recognition Reception, hosted May 2 by UM’s Centre for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning.

The annual event is an opportunity to celebrate teaching excellence. Each faculty and school nominates an outstanding graduating student, who then selects two teachers who have made important contributions to their education – one from their Kindergarten to Grade 12 years and one from their time at UM. This year, the group of 22 graduating students spoke about 44 outstanding educators who inspired them.

The ceremony, emceed by The Centre’s Director Erica Jung, returned to its in-person format in UMSU’s Killarney Room and was attended by the honourees and their family and friends. Dr. Diane Hiebert-Murphy, Provost and Vice-President (Academic), brought greetings and expressed gratitude for the educators in her life. “I think about the high school teacher who really challenged me to recognize what he saw as the potential in me, and I think about the university professors… who had a very crucial role in some of the decisions that I made about my educational journey,” she said.

Recipients of STRR awards stand in front of a backdrop for a posed picture.

Dr. Jila Ghomeshi, Associate Dean Undergraduate, Dr. David Watt, outstanding teacher, Zlata Odribets, outstanding student, Valerie Zviahintseva, outstanding teacher, Dr. Diane Hiebert-Murphy, Provost and Vice-President (Academic), University of Manitoba

This year’s students spoke eloquently and passionately about their chosen educators. Their tributes illustrated that although classrooms and teaching approaches have changed over the years, the things we value most about teachers have remained constant.

Students spoke about the enthusiasm, humour and empathy shown by the teachers who made a difference in their lives. They explained how their educators fueled in their students a love for learning and research, taught them how to think critically, gave them confidence and pushed them to excel.

Several spoke of how their teacher created a safe space for them and taught them skills that would benefit them outside the classroom. Anson Chan, of the Dr. Gerald Niznick College of Dentistry, thanked his junior high band and jazz band instructor, Darryl Ferguson, for the care he took with students at Acadia Junior High School. “Mr. Ferguson, thank you for always respecting and listening to us, despite us being just teenage kids at the time, and creating an environment for students to come and grow together, to create meaningful memories for all of us who were in your class.”

The undergraduate timeframe for this year’s graduating students spanned the COVID-19 pandemic. Several students, including Jillian Desjarlais in the I.H. Asper School of Business, thanked their UM professors for their ability to engage students in an online setting.

“I’ve only had the opportunity to meet Ms. Noha Ghattas through online classes, but I’m glad that I had what I did,” said Desjarlais of her Accounting and Finance professor. “The initial stages of the pandemic were full of stress, ambiguity and animosity for me and many of my peers. Although most professors tried their best to navigate teaching within this space, there was a definite disconnect between students and professors. Through this, Noha Ghattas seemed to be a breath of fresh air. Even though we attended class through screens, she made them a place where students felt comfortable to participate.”

Each educator received an engraved glass award presented to them by Dr. Mark Torchia, Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning). The student and their two teachers then posed for a commemorative photo with the dean or associate dean of their faculty.

After the ceremony, a reception in Marshall McLuhan Hall was boisterous, with the pairs of chosen teachers meeting each other for the first time and chatting with students’ friends and family. As the now-retired Mr. Wilcox crouched to chat with the two young daughters of his former Grade 1 student, it was clear that great teachers never stop caring about people.   

Faculty of Law student Lauren Gowler summed up the collective gratitude most simply in her tribute to Professor David Ireland: “Thank you… for showing me that a kind heart can go a long way in making a difference.”

For a full list of award recipients, please visit our webpage.

Gallery of attendees at the Students’ Teacher Recognition Reception

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