Distinguished Teacher Award Recipients Announced

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Congratulations to this year's recipients of the Distinguished Teacher Awards!

Greta Kroeker


Recipient of the 2015 Distinguished Teacher Award

Greta Kroeker by the living wall

Dr. Greta Kroeker, an associate professor in the Department of History, joined the University of Waterloo in July 2007. Kroeker goes beyond the expected levels of an instructor by creating a “learning environment all its own,” as one alumnus describes it. Teaching courses that require students to complete readings can be difficult. However, Kroeker compels students to complete such assignments with an interest in the material and enthusiasm as well. She uses her own enthusiasm, humour, and deep understanding of the content to encourage students to work at what they are learning. As one graduate student shares, “Dr. Kroeker encouraged me to continue to pursue my studies in history, thereby greatly impacting and influencing my own learning”.  By acting as a mentor and a motivator, Kroeker allows students to “feel safe and secure in their learning environment”, and dedicates many hours to supporting them. Innovating courses that students with an outside perspective may view as content-heavy is another way Kroeker goes beyond the realms of teaching. By structuring tutorials and assigning group projects that encourage creativity, students are able to develop “‘out of the box’ thinking when presenting research information”, which is an aspect an alumnus appreciated. As her fellow colleague explains, “Dr. Kroeker personally builds a compelling case for higher education, linking practical skills with intellectual achievement”.

Michael MacDonald

English Language and Literature

Recipient of the 2015 Distinguished Teacher Award

Michael MacDonald sitting in a room with bookshelf in the backgroundMichael MacDonald, an associate professor in the Department of English Language and Literature joined the University of Waterloo in 2001. MacDonald surpasses student expectations as a result of his remarkable ability to “communicate content seamlessly through his ability with speech”. Teaching material that can be viewed as ancient is a challenge that MacDonald breaks down and assists students in grasping. He ensures students have an understanding of what is expected, and structures his courses such that students are able to remain focused and on-track. MacDonald does more than just ensuring that his students complete academic requirements. He encourages students to “develop new ways of thinking about language and rhetoric”, which is one way a former graduate felt inspired by MacDonald’s teaching. Outside of the classroom, MacDonald is dedicated to remaining connected and fostering constant interaction with his students. He responds “promptly to students queries on the LEARN discussion boards” and “makes himself available to students” if they ever have questions. MacDonald is always happy to make time to explain concepts further, which provides a highly positive impact on student learning. As an undergraduate describes, “his easy-going but professional demeanor ensured that he commanded respect from the class, while also creating a non-intimidating atmosphere that made the classroom feel like a safe place to speak and promote ideas”.

Mary Louise McAllister

Environmment and Resource Studies

Recipient of the 2015 Distinguished Teacher Award

Mary Louise McAllister standing by the living wall

Dr. Mary Louise McAllister, an associate professor in Environment and Resources Studies and Teaching Fellow for the Faculty of Environment joined the University of Waterloo in September 1996. McAllister transcends the expectations of an educator, dedicating innumerable hours to improving the student learning experience. Her compassion and “contagious enthusiasm” creates an encouraging classroom atmosphere that is conducive to student learning and engagement. McAllister is always searching for innovative, experiential learning techniques, and frequently employs alternative teaching methods to maximize student understanding and create an inclusive learning environment. As one of her undergraduate students states, McAllister is “always willing to change the curriculum to best suit the needs of a specific class, providing personalized environments that create unmatched learning experiences”. A mentor in her field, McAllister continues to share her wealth of knowledge and passion for teaching within her peer group. Her GreenTEA blog is one of the many outlets in which McAllister explores new teaching technologies and promotes deeper pedagogical reflection. An alumnus states, she is “influencing the next generation of environmental leaders”.

Jeff West

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Recipient of the 2015 Distinguished Teacher Award

Jeff West standing by the living wall

Jeff West is a Professional Engineer, Fellow of American Concrete Institute, Associate Professor and Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies in Civil and Environmental Engineering. Since joining the University of Waterloo in July 2002, West has supervised a dozen Master’s students, as well as supervised six PhD students. West is recognized as one of the top instructors in his department by excelling in leadership and mentoring, course design and delivery, as well as leadership in curriculum renewal. Student teaching evaluations have always been outstanding, conveying students’ appreciation for his effective teaching methods and learning environment. As one of his students notes, “His unique delivery method and organized presentation made each and every lecture a sheer joy to attend”.  West is widely known for his ability to convey material to the class in a clear and concise manner by infusing lectures with step-by-step procedures and well-designed course notes that allow for the clarification of even the most abstract topics. Many nominators noted the continuous care and dedication that West provides to his students in and out of the classroom.