Posted February 6, 2009
Education Recognition

Eyles, Bontis receive Canada's highest teaching award
by Jane Christmas

Hamilton - Carolyn Eyles started a wiki with her students to create an inventory of Canadian glaciers; Nick Bontis moves around the classroom like an inspirational speaker. Both professors bring an uncommon sense of passion to their teaching, and today have been recognized with a prestigious 3M Teaching Fellowship.

Carolyn Eyles, professor in the School of Geography
and Earth Sciences. Photo by the Science Media Lab.

The 3M Fellowships are the most prestigious recognition of excellence and leadership in Canadian university teaching. Each year up to 10 professors are chosen out of more than 35,000 faculty members across Canada.

Eyles, whose teaching includes an introductory course on Earth Sciences and one on glaciers in the Faculty of Science, attributes her passion for teaching to her students and to her willingness to take risks.

"I depend greatly on my students," she says. "I listen to them and incorporate their ideas into my teaching. For instance, students mentioned about how their essays and projects were handed in, marked and then lost forever. So we created a wiki to build an inventory of Canadian glaciers, and it just instilled such pride in the students. They saw that their contribution mattered. I also get a huge amount of encouragement from McMaster to 'go try it.' It's easy to take risks when you have the support of your University."

Bontis, an associate professor of strategy in the DeGroote School of Business, is well known for his high energy, interactive, problem-based teaching approach and his innovative use of technology and simulations in the classroom. In 2007, he won three outstanding teaching awards simultaneously for the undergraduate program, the MBA program and the campus-wide President's Award for Excellence in Instruction. Maclean's magazine has identified him as one of McMaster's most popular professors six years in a row, and he was one of 10 finalists in the 2008 TVO Big Ideas Best Lecturer Competition. In addition to his teaching prowess, Bontis won Faculty Researcher of the Year and is Director of Undergraduate Programs at DeGroote.

Nick Bontis, associate professor and director of
undergraduate programs in the DeGroote School of Business.

Nick Bontis, associate professor and director of undergraduate programs in the DeGroote School of Business. File Photo.

"My goal in the classroom is to create a learning environment that is high energy, interactive, engaging and educational," says Bontis. "Technology, especially computer simulations, take lessons beyond theory and create a totally different learning experience for students. Staying on the cutting edge-whether it's about the latest goings-on in the business world or new software that companies are using-ensures that I give students the skills and the knowledge they need to hit their career path running."

Peter George, president of McMaster University, called it a remarkable achievement, especially for a university to receive two such awards.

"Teaching is important work," says George. "A good teacher inspires, and both Carolyn and Nick have mastered ways to inject passion into their students. We are extremely proud of both of them."

"At the DeGroote School of Business, we are committed to ensuring that the student experience prepares our graduates fully for their future career success," says Paul Bates, dean of the DeGroote School of Business. "Nick's passion, dedication and enthusiasm are palpable every time he is in the classroom, and as a result he motivates students to keep pushing the limits."

Eyles and Bontis will formally receive their awards on June 18 at the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education conference in New Brunswick.

In addition, all 10 winners of this year's awards will be invited to a retreat at Chateau Montebello in November.

The Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education and 3M Canada created the 3M Teaching Fellowships in 1986 to recognize the importance of university teaching.

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