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Excellence in undergraduate teaching recognized

Each year, the Alma Mater Society (AMS) at Queen’s awards two professors for their outstanding commitment to teaching excellence with the highest honour given by students: the Frank Knox Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Named for Frank Knox, an economics professor who taught at Queen’s for 40 years, the award serves as a reminder of the need for a strong commitment to a high quality of teaching from professors at Queen’s.


Dr. Agnès Conacher, French Studies

A cornerstone of the French Studies program at Queen’s for the past 16 years, Dr. Agnès Conacher establishes a culture of care within each of her classrooms.

Dr. Conacher came to Queen’s from Australia after completing her PhD nearly two decades ago, and she hasn’t looked back since.

Reflecting on how times have changed her experience as an educator, Dr. Conacher explains that there have been significant changes in class size and technology that have made it a challenge to maintain a high quality of teaching.

Dr. Agnès Conacher (French Studies), recipient of
the 2014-15 Frank Knox Award for Excellence in 
Teaching. 

“These are issues we’ve all had to work through,” she says, “but it is very gratifying to have had some success doing so.”

That said, Dr. Conacher has worked tirelessly to ensure that her classes have positive and enriching experiences under her leadership.

She has had such great success fostering positive experiences for her students that many will follow her from first to fourth year, taking each of her classes. She describes this as the greatest thrill of her job, as she gets to watch her students grow as learners and as individuals.

“I was very flattered and grateful to learn I’d been nominated, and when I found out I’d actually be receiving the award… I was flabbergasted. I can’t believe students took the time to write nice things about me in my nomination”, she smiles.

When asked what she would want future students to know who have never taken a class at Queen’s, Dr. Conacher says:

“I’d want future students to know that we care… we care for their welfare, their well-being. In my class, I make sure they are cared for, and then we learn.”

 

Dr. Ken Rose, Biomedical and Molecular Sciences

Trained in Electrical Engineering during his undergraduate degree, Dr. Ken Rose was subsequently “bitten by the neuroscience bug”, in his words. He now has what he describes as a privilege of passing along his knowledge to undergraduate students in Life Sciences.

When attempting to qualify the secret to his success, Dr. Rose explains that it’s not the what, but the how that’s important to teach.

In a discipline often crowded with fact memorization, Dr. Rose has found a passion for doing things differently. Two years ago, Dr. Rose decided to create his own essay-style exam in a course where all other sections were doing multiple choice. Dr. Rose likes using experiments as teaching tools wherever it is feasible.

Dr. Ken Rose, recipient of the 2014-15 Frank Knox Award for
Excellence in Teaching. 

“I’m interested in creating independent learners, critical thinkers, and great communicators”, he says. “Students are far more capable than we think they are.”

Dr. Rose’s infectious energy and unwavering dedication to his students has made him very popular within his classes. It is no coincidence that in the middle of the interview for this article, a student came into his office, visiting him years after having graduated, to say hello and give him a big hug.

“You do this because you care”, he says.

When asked what this award means to him, Dr. Rose explained that it reaffirms his faith in changing the way that science education is delivered. “It says do it again, it’s working”, he says. He hopes that it might serve as an impetus for others who might be hesitant to try something new.

Dr. Rose has a deep personal connection to an award that recognizes excellence in his life’s work, and would like to thank all who spent time nominating him.

“Students win awards for teachers.”