As students, we never forget our best teacher. For many, this is especially true when speaking of Trent University School of Education and Professional Learning professor, Dr. Cathy Bruce.
Professor Bruce has been an educator at Trent since 2003, and has recently been named one of Ontario’s most outstanding university teachers by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA).
“I’m very excited about it,” says Bruce. “It’s nice to be recognized for all of the work I’ve done thinking so hard about teaching and how to excite students about their learning.”
This honour and recognition of teaching excellence is awarded to six recipients each year. The OCUFA award will be presented to Professor Bruce at a ceremony celebrating her accomplishments in late September.
According to OCUFA President Kate Lawson, Bruce’s past students have described her teaching as “innovative,” “transformational,” and “inspirational.” In addition to her interest in incorporating learning technologies in the classroom, Professor Bruce also has a particular passion for mathematics education. She specializes in exploring new ways to educate pre-service teachers so that they might better engage students in mathematics content.
“Most of my students are going to be elementary teachers, and that means that they are going to be expected to teach math,” she explains. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they come into the program with a background in mathematics. Some of them are really nervous about it. One of my first goals is helping Trent students feel good and comfortable about teaching math in ways that are enjoyable.”
Many pre-service teachers in the elementary stream are fearful, questioning their ability to teach math concepts. But as Dr. Bruce points out, “We have a whole moral imperative to help children do the best they can. If we equip them with early math, it sets them up for success later on and raises their credit accumulation, their reading ability, their success in areas like social studies and science. It’s proving to be a really important metric for overall school success and understanding. Without intervention or special support, those kids who are struggling at the beginning will stay behind. This is just one reason why it’s so important for educators to feel comfortable teaching math.”
Dr. Bruce has been studying teaching and learning for over 25 years. In that time, she has also become increasingly troubled over the state of our planet. “I’m concerned about our world,” she admits. “I’m concerned about where we’re going, the lack of care for our environment. Something that we can do with math is be really creative. I know that sounds counterintuitive at the first level, but actually when we are using mathematics we are problem solving, looking at alternatives and options. We are trying to prove things and think about alternate solutions and strategies, and so if we can understand how productive that is, how very positive that can be, then this is what we should be aiming for with twenty-first century learners. We need to create a generation of creative problem solvers. An education in math can support this.”
Trent University students and faculty should be very proud of our School of Education and Professional Learning professor’s most recent accomplishment. Congratulations, Dr. Bruce!