‘You made me flourish’: Students celebrate their teachers
In an eloquent and moving tribute, Faculty of Arts student Oluwagbemiga Akhanamoya told the crowd gathered for the 25th Annual Students’ Teacher Recognition Reception (STRR) that she was indebted to her teachers.
The University of Manitoba’s STRR features students from each faculty presenting awards of recognition to two extraordinary teachers — one from their K-12 experience and another from their time at the university. They acknowledge teachers who have had a significant, and even life-changing, impact for them. Students and their selected teachers attend together; this year’s event took place in the Killarney Room at University Centre on May 8.
The annual event is hosted by the Centre for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning, which collaborates with faculty, instructors, graduate students and others to provide leadership, expertise and support in fulfilling the teaching and learning mission of the University of Manitoba.
Akhanamoya began by thanking her Nigerian teacher, who “didn’t just teach literature, but lived literature,” for “rearranging my path through a love of literature.” She also recognized associate professor of English, film, and Theatre, Warren Cariou.
Cariou told her he would teach her what he knew about writing and poetry. He helped her to secure an internship at a local literary magazine and encouraged her to apply for a writing workshop scholarship.
“I — only I — was surprised when I was accepted,” said Akhanamoya. “You always felt it was deserving. You encouraged my art when I thought it was unworthy of attention. And most of all, you made me flourish. Thank you.”
What the teachers could not know, she added, is that “they did not just change my academic path; they saved my life.”
Educators going beyond the curriculum: ‘fundamental lessons’
Dental hygiene student Jasmine Bonenfant told the audience, “Today we’re honouring educators — those who go beyond the curriculum , and allow us to explore it, question it and engage with it.”
Paying tribute to her junior high English teacher, she said, “She taught me that living in a bubble of your own opinions closes you off from the people and the world around you. Having a teacher that made me realize so young the importance of open- and fair-mindedness, respect and understanding helped me develop into the person I am today.”
She next thanked U of M dental hygiene clinic coordinator Lorraine Glassford, calling her one of the most empathetic and fair people she’d ever met — “the one who doesn’t give up on anyone,” and someone who gave her “the boost I needed to cross the finish line.”
Rady Faculty of Health Sciences student in the College of Dentistry, Ryan Howard, also thanked his English teacher. At Kelvin High School, George Atkins introduced the class to Beowulf, instilling in Howard a love of literature and helping him to “imagine a a world outside of my own,” he said.
Starting in his first year of dental school, he continued, the experience and knowledge of Noriko Boorberg, assistant professor of restorative dentistry, taught him “fundamental lessons in striving for perfection and not sacrificing quality in a profession where fractions of millimetres really do matter.”
Her teaching style is “articulate and interactive, and tailored to the needs of individual students,” he said. He was inspired by her “boundless energy, cheerful enthusiasm, as well as her dedication and care for her individual students.
“Her lessons and her set of values have had a strong impact on me that I will carry forward into my career for years to come.”
This message was echoed throughout the event by almost all of the students in thanking their teachers, instructors and professors.
Annual event a highlight
Mark Torchia, executive director of the Centre for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning, says that the annual event is a highlight. “It’s always wonderful to hear students recognize the teachers who inspired them and mentored them. As we say in the U of M’s strategic plan, one of our priorities is to inspire minds through innovative and quality teaching,” he says.
“This event is a touching reminder of the teaching and learning at the core of the University’s mission.”