Leah Kristufek had an “aha moment” when Gordon Stubley briefly spoke to her first-year engineering class. Later, when she became one of his students, Kristufek discovered that inspiring moments would be an everyday occurrence in the engineering professor’s class.
“He reminded me why I decided on engineering in the first place,” says Kristufek, now a mechanical engineering master’s student. “In engineering, we’re supposed to ask ‘how’, but Professor Stubley taught us that it’s also okay to ask ‘why’ and be super excited when you finally figured out the answer.”
Stubley, a mechanical engineering professor who has been teaching in the Faculty of Engineering for 30 years, has been recognized with a 3M National Teaching Fellowship, awarded by the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education and 3M Canada. Up to 10 people from across the country are presented annually with the fellowship, considered Canada’s most prestigious award for excellence in post-secondary education.
Stubley is described in his award citation as having a transformative impact on the University of Waterloo through changing the culture around teaching, acting as a guide committed to making teaching count and helping his colleagues and his students succeed.
“If you want a teaching and learning initiative at Waterloo to have legs, give it to Gord,” says a colleague.
Professor loves watching students grow
Stubley believes his role as a teacher is to help students realize the limitations in their present understanding, feel safe in giving up the security of their present view, and build a new and broader framework for successfully tackling engineering challenges.
I really like watching how people grow,” says Stubley. “Students bring and make incredible stories here on campus. To be able to share in that is fantastic.”
Stubley, a Waterloo alumnus who is also engineering’s associate dean of teaching, is just the fourth educator campus-wide and the first Waterloo Engineering professor to receive the fellowship. Of the over 300 Canadian faculty members to whom the fellowship has been extended since 1986, there have been only 17 engineering professors honoured.
“Engineering has certainly been underrepresented throughout the years,” says Stubley. “But this year, seven of the 10 recipients are in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields. What I hope this means is that as a country and a society we’re starting to recognize the importance of engineering overall and the good work that goes on in the classroom.”
Noting that it’s been eight years since a Waterloo professor has been the recipient of the teaching fellowship, Stubley hopes it doesn’t take that long for another educator on campus to be recognized.
“There are lots of people who do really good work at this university in teaching,” says Stubley. “I think it’s really important that we learn to talk about how we achieve excellence and how our students see excellence.”
Stubley’s dedication to teaching has been recognized several times. He has received a number of provincial teaching awards as well as the university’s highest teaching honour – the University of Waterloo’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 2009.
Kristufek, who wrote a letter of support for Stubley describes him as a fantastic educator. “He is kind of like the engineering Bill Nye in that he still finds the subject cool and he goes about continuing to learn with an infectious eagerness.”