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Biologist wins President's Teaching Award

HANDS-ON TEACHING: Professor Clare Hasenkampf, pictured at left giving a demonstration, is the recipient of a President's Teaching Award. (Photo by Ken Jones.)

by Elaine Smith (with files from Mary Ann Gratton)

Biological sciences professor Clare Hasenkampf of the University of Toronto Scarborough has been named the recipient of a President’s Teaching Award this year.

Hasenkampf, who is also interim director of Teaching and Learning Services, is one of four U of T professors to be named a recipient of this prestigious award. The other winners are: Professors Zubin Austin of the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy; Helen Batty of family and community medicine; and Yu-Ling Cheng of chemical engineering and applied chemistry.

“I was thrilled, but also humbled,” says Hasenkampf. “It is a big honour and it carries a challenging responsibility to work to raise the profile of teaching, and to have it work in harmony with our research orientation. I hope I can live up to the challenge.”

This quartet is being recognized for a career commitment to teaching excellence. All four professors will receive an accompanying membership in the U of T teaching academy.

"The strong field of candidates for the annual President's Teaching Awards is a testament to the excellent faculty across all three campuses at the University of Toronto," said Professor Vivek Goel, vice-president and provost. "The teaching academy has gained four new excellent members this year, each with talents and expertise to share with their colleagues."

Hasenkampf teaches large undergraduate courses and said she strives to deliver interesting classroom presentations, to demonstrate a 'human side' to her courses along with the course materials, and to provide students an opportunity for personal and professional growth. Hasenkampf challenges students to pursue their science degree as 'scientists in training.”

This is not her first teaching award. In recognition of her teaching efforts, she has previously received the University of Toronto Scarborough Faculty Teaching Award and an Ontario government Leadership in Faculty Teaching (LIFT) Award.

Hasenkampf has been the long-term program supervisor for the undergraduate program in cell and molecular biology, and was instrumental in developing a co-operative education option for this program. With colleagues Teresa Dawson, Charles Dyer and John Scherk, she spearheaded the creation of the Science Engagement Centre, which helps students enrich their science education via team research projects or what is called service learning. Service learning enables students to integrate their discipline-based knowledge and skills with service to their community and reflect critically on their learning.

As a biologist, Hasenkampf says she urges her students to approach their learning as “biologists in training.” “I urge them to think actively about what they are ‘taught,’ and to see how it fits – or doesn’t fit – into their understanding of the world,” says Hasenkampf. “I try to structure my courses so that students are challenged to improve their skills and to function as scientists. I also try to maintain a sense of wonder of the majesty of nature, and encourage the students to do the same, because this is a driving force for learning.”

Asked what advice she would give others aiming to improve their teaching, Hasenkampf replies, “Have confidence in your content expertise and focus your efforts on how to facilitate student learning. Find your strengths and match those strengths with appropriate in-class activities,” she says. “Lastly, find a way to teach that is enjoying and fulfilling.”

The four award recipients were recommended by a seven-person committee chaired by the provost and populated by former President’s Teaching Award winners and experts in pedagogy. Their appointments to the teaching academy were approved by the university’s academic board at its most recent meeting. As members, they will be called upon periodically to discuss teaching-related matters and to advise the vice-president and provost and the office of teaching advancement. They may also be asked to deliver an annual public lecture or a convocation address. The awardees will also receive stipends of $10,000 a year for five years to further their work.

This year's recipients have varied teaching backgrounds and all have significantly enriched the student experience at the university, Goel noted.

For details on the remaining three recipients, click on the following U of T news story:

© University of Toronto Scarborough