Three outstanding instructors are being honoured for their service to students with 2021-22 College of Arts and Science Teaching Awards.
Dr. Jon Bath (PhD), Dr. Janeen Loehr (PhD) and Dr. Colin Sproat (PhD) are the recipients of this year’s New Teacher Awards.
The awards are presented annually by the University of Saskatchewan (USask) College of Arts and Science.
New Teacher Award in BA, BMus or BFA Programs
Dr. Jon Bath (PhD), an associate professor in the Department of Art and Art History, considers passion to be a core element of his teaching philosophy.
“Whenever I teach I always hope that the first impression I give is one of passion for the subject matter, for I truly love what I teach and know that I am very lucky to be able to spend my days talking about that which I love,” Bath said.
In evaluations of his courses, Bath’s students describe him as creative, caring and enthusiastic. He is praised for his clear instruction and his respectful interactions with students.
Bath’s research connects the visual arts, digital humanities, design, and the creation and use of textual objects. In his popular first-year courses, Bath offers students direct experience with research materials such as medieval manuscripts in the USask archives. He also runs “hackfests” which bring together undergraduate and graduate students to develop design solutions related to his research.
A previous winner of a University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union (USSU) Teaching Excellence Award, Bath encourages students to connect their studies to life outside the classroom. “I believe it is very important that students can see themselves, their interests, and their personal backgrounds in the material we study,” he said.
Bath has created numerous courses in art history and interdisciplinary studies. He co-led the development of the new Certificate in Urban Design. He was among the first teachers at USask to incorporate live subtitles into his in-person and video lectures, improving accessibility for students.
In his online lectures, Bath draws inspiration from content creators on YouTube, Twitch and other platforms for creative strategies to keep students engaged. “Every class is an experiment,” said Bath, “from which I hope to learn how to improve subsequent classes.”
New Teacher Award in BSc Programs
Dr. Janeen Loehr (PhD) is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology and Health Studies who teaches courses on human neuropsychology and cognitive neuroscience.
Loehr’s students praise her ability to teach challenging material by creating a positive and inclusive learning environment. She is known as an approachable, inspirational mentor who treats students as equals. Her classrooms are made vibrant by her use of active, problem-based learning opportunities.
In her research, Loehr studies joint action: two or more people coordinating to achieve a shared goal. She gives her students hands-on opportunities to engage with her research; for example, students might visit her cutting-edge EEG laboratory, set up a classmate with an EEG cap and monitor their brain activity.
Loehr’s students appreciate her clear instruction and expectations. The grading rubrics she provides in each course have been adopted by other teachers, and Loehr’s guides to writing research reports are often reused by students in their other classes.
Despite her record of positive teaching evaluations and a previous teaching award—a 2015 USSU Teaching Excellence Award—Loehr regularly attends teaching workshops to continually refine her approach.
She says her overall goal as an instructor at the undergraduate level is teaching her students to critically evaluate information.
“I believe this is the most valuable skill I can encourage undergraduate students to develop, given the number of questionable claims that people encounter in their daily lives,” Loehr said.
At the graduate level, Loehr works to teach students how to apply the knowledge gained in her courses to their own research. “I strive to create a collaborative training environment that fosters teamwork, open communication and effective problem-solving,” she said.
New Teacher Award in BSc Programs
Dr. Colin Sproat (PhD), an assistant professor in the Department of Geological Sciences, believes a professor’s responsibility to students goes beyond the contents of lectures and labs.
“Our role as educators in the modern world is so much more than teaching. I strongly believe that university professors have to take a holistic approach to supporting students on their learning journey,” Sproat said.
Sproat makes a special effort to teach his students the skills needed to learn and to critically assess information. He has also taken training in mental health first aid to recognize signs of distress and offer extra support to students when needed.
“Most students just need someone to talk to and this is where I feel faculty can make a major impact,” he said.
Sproat—who specializes in the study of ancient clam-like creatures called brachiopods—teaches the Department of Geological Sciences’ annual field school, which is normally held in Montana. In 2021, when the trip was not possible due to the United States border closure, Sproat and two colleagues designed a new field course from scratch to be held at La Ronge and Eastend, Sask.
A Métis scientist, Sproat donates his time to promote science to Indigenous students. He has helped organize and taken part in visits by Indigenous elementary and high school students to campus. Last year, he participated in a panel discussion for students about the Indigenization of STEM.
In their evaluations of his courses, students describe Sproat as skilful, supportive, organized and patient. In the words of many students, he is a professor who genuinely cares.
The New Teacher Awards are presented to instructors in the College of Arts and Science who began their appointments less than 10 years ago. The Distinguished Teacher Awards, which recognize instructors more than 10 years into their USask teaching careers, are not being presented this year due to a lack of nominations.