Prized teachers bring students to life, learning

by Hilary Thomson
Staff writer

A cross between a midwife and a truffle hound -- that's how Killam Teaching Prize winner Christine Parkin describes her role as teacher.

"Both aspects need to be there," says Parkin, a senior instructor in the English Dept. "I help create the conditions for the students' intellectual birth and then I try to root out the best they're capable of."

Parkin, a UBC alumna and a teacher for 40 years, is one of 24 faculty members to receive University Killam Teaching Prizes during Spring Congregation.

Using texts ranging from Winnie-the-Pooh to Othello, Parkin teaches advanced composition, technical writing, children's literature and introduction to drama.

A faculty member since 1974, she brings a diverse set of skills to her job. Besides being a teacher, she has also been a lawyer and an actor.

The law degree has made her a stickler for detail, she says, a standard she puts to use in her technical writing course. Her love of theatre fuels her drama teaching and her own acting abilities allow her to be "a bit of a comedian."

As she describes how she encourages their work, Parkin's sensitivity toward her students is obvious.

"It's an act of courage to write," she says. "When you hand in a piece of work, you're exposed and vulnerable. I try to give as much positive feedback as possible."

One student credits Parkin with empowering aspiring writers.

"She'll look you straight in the eye and say, `You can do it,' and you feel that you could become the next C.S. Lewis."

Parkin says it's been a joy and a privilege to teach because teachers touch people's lives forever. "It could never be seen as a trivial occupation."

Killam Teaching Prize winners are selected by their faculties on the basis of recommendations from colleagues and students. Each award winner receives $5,000 from endowment sources. Where there are co-winners, the prize is shared.

Recipients bring creativity and enthusiasm to the classroom.

Other Killam Teaching Prize recipients for 1998 include:

Faculty of Agricultural Sciences: F. Brian Holl, Plant Science. Faculty of Applied Science: Michael Jackson, Electrical and Computer Engineering; Philip Hill, Mechanical Engineering. Faculty of Arts: George McWhirter, Theatre, Film and Creative Writing; Lyn MacCrostie, Arts One; Bruce Miller, Anthropology and Sociology. Faculty of Commerce and Business Administration: Ruth Freedman, Finance. Faculty of Dentistry: co-winners Donal McDonnell and Colin Price, Oral Biological and Medical Sciences. Faculty of Education: Rita Irwin, Curriculum Studies; Marion Porath, Educational Psychology and Special Education. Faculty of Graduate Studies: Richard Ericson, Green College. Faculty of Medicine: Margaret McCuaig, School of Rehabilitation Sciences; Carol-Ann Courneya, Physiology, Dr. Richard Arseneau, Medicine. Faculty of Science: Carol Ann Borden, Botany; Chris Orvig, Chemistry; Chris Waltham, Physics.