(Image above) Colleen Whidden, education instructor. Photo submitted by Natalia Pokoracka, Follow the Hope
Recognized provincially for her commitment to learning and learners, Colleen Whidden, instructor with Medicine Hat College (MHC), is the recipient of the 2017 Distinguished Instructor Award by the Alberta Colleges & Institutes Faculties Association (ACIFA).
Alongside the announcement, Whidden was also named MHC’s first teaching fellow by the Centre for Innovation and Teaching Excellence (CITE). This faculty appointment is new to the college and responsible for bringing a sustained focus on teaching excellence by exploring evidence-based practices, and sharing their findings with their colleagues.
“It was a competitive process. There were very strong applications. The elements the Dean’s Council considered in selection included the desire to serve as a teaching fellow, and Colleen’s passion and commitment was powerful,” says Jason Openo director of CITE. “Colleen also provided a strong research history and ideas for how to support the culture of teaching excellence at MHC.”
Whidden’s topic during the fellowship is experiential learning, a subject that Openo feels is relevant across multiple programs.
“These learning experiences, which take place out of the classroom, help students learn new roles by engaging in specific tasks with consequences. We know experiential learning is powerful, and Colleen’s work will help us understand why and how it works.”
Lorelei Boschman, coordinator of the education program, was excited to hear that Whidden was not only recognized provincially, but also received the first fellowship.
“We are thrilled to congratulate her on these excellent accomplishments. She is well deserving of this award and fellowship as she demonstrates daily her passion for education, teaching and learning with her students and colleagues. Her commitment to education and to Medicine Hat College is exemplary.”
Boschman shared a few student testimonials, which she feels capture Whidden’s impact in the classroom.
One former student describes Whidden as inspiring, engaging, empowering and caring, adding that she stands beside her students, supporting and learning with them, and that her teaching style is contagious because of the passion she brings.
Another student highlights Whidden’s trust in them, which has allowed them to mature and succeed in the classroom. The student also noted that her style helped them gain confidence, learn new skills and inspired them to approach their teaching with enthusiasm.
If you want to learn more about the teaching fellowship visit www.mhc.ab.ca/CITE.
For information on the education program at MHC visit www.mhc.ab.ca.
Be passionate. Be excited. Love kids. Work hard. Don’t be mediocre - be amazing. These are just a few tenets that Colleen Whidden, education instructor at Medicine Hat College (MHC), passes onto her students.
Full of energy, Whidden describes herself as a “cook on high” kind of person. She is all-in, works hard and is committed to making a personal connection with every student.
“I try to be energetic and enthusiastic. I vary my instructional style so even in a lecture-based class I try to add some interaction, experiential learning and group work. As an instructor it’s important to emulate the teaching style we want our students to have.”
By getting to know her students, Whidden explains that it allows her to customize her lessons to meet their needs and capitalize on their strengths as learners.
The recipient of the 2017 Distinguished Instructor Award from the Alberta Colleges & Institutes Faculties Association, and named teaching fellow by the Centre for Innovation and Teaching Excellence at MHC, Whidden’s innovative style in the classroom is helping learners prepare for the future.
“I started teaching in 1989, when the focus was on the content. Now there has been a much needed shift towards differentiation and accommodation. Making all students do the same thing is not equal. We need to approach them as an individual and ensure we are teaching in a way that we are helping them understand the content.”
When asked why she decided to pursue teaching, Whidden expresses that it’s what she is meant to do. What she sees as her “happy place”, her “home”.
Whidden mentions that she is in contact with a number of her past students and has been told that her teachings still resonate with them. She recalls with a smile on her face one story in particular where she felt some validation in her career.
“When I was teaching high school music, one of my students who was a drummer and sang in the choir pulled me aside and mentioned that he would never have graduated had it not been for the music program or me encouraging him to stay in school. That was really reassuring, to know I had that much of an impact, as an instructor. It’s in those moment you kind of go – that’s it, that why I teach.”
Whidden is excited to continue her journey with MHC, and looks forward to sharing her ideas and being part of the vision with a team that she describes as a strong, passionate and visionary group of educators.
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