The importance of health and wellness in the classroom is something Cealan Wang works hard to achieve. Wang, recipient of the Amit and Meena Chakma Award for Exceptional Teaching by a Student (2019), knows that creating a healthy and engaging learning environment goes beyond simply giving information. It is about creating a friendly and personal environment that stimulates interaction and academic growth, while having some fun. Wang works to empower students and emphasizes to students to not let their perceived disadvantages or vulnerabilities define them. Wang has shared their own vulnerabilities, conveying to students that vulnerabilities are all about how we perceive them—they are not a sign of weakness and can be your greatest strength. Sharing their vulnerabilities helps to show students that Wang is human, and that facing challenges is okay and part of everyone’s life. This openness is one way Wang encourages resilience in students and helps them to develop a healthy outlook on the intense academic and career stress students might experience while at university.
Another way in which Wang works to promote wellness in the classroom is through their unique teaching style. Wang continually try’s to relate to students, ask students how they’re doing, and share a little bit about their life to make students feel more comfortable.
Wang also likes to inform students about what is going on across campus and continually ask students for feedback—as Wang states, “I want to learn how to teach from you.” Supporting students in these small ways has made large impacts.
One very impactful moment came from a simple in-class activity. Wang asked students to go around the classroom, shake hands, and introduce themselves to each other to help illustrate a certain math graph theory. This simple classroom exercise was one student’s first opportunity to develop friendships with other students in math. The conversations initiated that day, lead to creation of new friendships and ‘study buddies’ and helped to build community within the classroom. That one individual approached Wang on the last day of class to thank them for the activity—this is a great example of the power of fostering a shared sense of belonging. Creating an environment where students feel that they’re not alone and providing opportunities to connect with others is so important. Wang’s commitment to wellbeing and dedication to teaching has positively shifted their classroom environment—it goes to show that it doesn’t take much to aid a sense of community. Sustaining a supportive classroom culture that recognizes the importance of mental well-being around students really does make a large impact!