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3 people presenting at the Students' Teacher Recognition Reception.

From left to right, Mr. Blaine Workman, Ecole Silver Heights Collegiate, outstanding teacher, Rachel Akong, Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, Food and Human Nutritional Sciences, outstanding student, Dr. Carla Taylor, Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, Food and Human Nutritional Sciences, outstanding teacher

UM students celebrate the outstanding educators in their lives

Popular STRR event honours K-12 and UM instructors for 32nd year

May 14, 2024 — 

“Teachers become mentors when they guide your life, and there’s something about their presence in it that remains with you forever. You’re shown your purpose and worth, and they give you the strength to stand in your power with integrity.”

With those words, UM Chemistry student Katherine Bazin summed up the beneficial effect that excellent teachers can have on the lives of their students.  

Bazin was one of 19 students speaking at this year’s Students’ Teacher Recognition Reception, an annual gathering that celebrates teaching excellence. Each UM faculty and school selects an outstanding graduating student, who then delivers a short thank you to two teachers who have made key contributions to their education – one from their Kindergarten to Grade 12 years and one from their time at UM. This year, the group of 19 graduating students spoke about 38 passionate educators who helped shape them into the people they are today.

Hosted by The Centre for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning and emceed by Centre Director Dr. Erica Jung, this year’s event took place May 2 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 spoke of the wide-ranging impact of teachers. “Teachers not only invest in the academic success of our students, and we’re very grateful they do that, but they also very much contribute to the personal development of our students and to their ongoing character development.”

Students described how their teachers demonstrated a passion for their craft, were committed to ensuring all students felt safe and seen, and how they used humour and creativity in their classrooms to engage their charges. Many described how their critical thinking skills were sparked by these educators and how the skills they learned will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

Several students shared how their teachers helped them through personal challenges. Perhaps the most moving example was from Deji Omotayo of the Dr. Gerald Niznick College of Dentistry, when speaking of his elementary school teacher Mr. Mudasiru in Lagos, Nigeria.

When he was 12 years old, Omotayo’s father was shot dead in front of him. “That trauma was something I couldn’t get over,” he said. “I decided I was going to go into gun violence, I was going to join a gang, because I was an only child and he was my best friend, and someone had taken him away from me. But Mr. Mudasiru stepped up as the father I didn’t have and used academics to turn my life around. He would give me loads of work, and I didn’t have time for anything else except being a good student. He told me to channel my energy into being the best that I could be.” (Mr. Mudasiru had hoped to travel from Nigeria to Winnipeg to celebrate with Omotayo but was ultimately unable to make the trip.)

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

Dr. John Perry, Associate Dean (Academic), Deji Omotayo, outstanding student, Dr. Charlene Solomon, outstanding teacher, Dr. Trenna Reeve, Associate Dean (Clinical), Dr. Diane Hiebert-Murphy, Provost and Vice-President (Academic), University of Manitoba

Jappreet Kaur Gill from the College of Rehabilitation Sciences shared the challenges of being a newcomer to Canada, mature student, wife, mother and sister to a critically ill sister back in India. There came a point when she thought her university degree might be unattainable. UM professor Maureen Walker was there to help show her the way.

“There are no words to describe how wonderful she is,” Kaur Gill said. “I had to leave my placement behind, and I was in the middle of nowhere, and Maureen reached out to me and showed me that I can still do it, that I can visit my sister and I can still academically do well. Her willingness to impart life lessons along with academic teaching has left a long-lasting impact on me,” she said.

The air was celebratory at the reception following the ceremony. Colleen Plumton, Fieldwork Program Coordinator in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management, was the UM instructor of choice for graduating student Sierra Dueck. Plumton has been previously recognized at the STRR event for her dedication to excellence. “We do it because we love it,” she said. “I feel gifted with many students in how lucky we are together. Fabulous connections happen; students take in the information, and they are the ones who make it all happen with what we provide them.”

Each educator received an engraved glass award presented by Colleen Webb, Senior Team Lead in the Centre for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning. Each student and their two teachers posed for a commemorative photo with the dean or associate dean of their faculty and the Vice-President (Academic).

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

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