How 3M National teaching fellows improve the classroom

For 31 years, the exclusive awards has recognized the country’s best university teachers. Meet 10 of them

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Professor Alison Flynn discussing course assignments with her students in her uOttawa research group meeting class. (Photograph by Jessica Deeks)

Professor Alison Flynn discussing course assignments with her students in her uOttawa research group meeting class. (Photograph by Jessica Deeks)
Professor Alison Flynn discussing course assignments with her students in her uOttawa research group meeting class. (Photograph by Jessica Deeks)

The 3M National Teaching Fellowship was founded 31 years ago by the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education to recognize exceptional teachers in post-secondary education, where emphasis is often on research.

There’s no cash prize, but winners become lifetime members of the society, which meets annually to brainstorm ways to improve higher education, and each year’s crop of 10 professors spend three days at a retreat in Banff, Alta.

“Anybody who is nominated for the Teaching Fellowship is going to be a great teacher,” says society president Robert Lapp. “What makes the difference is the leadership element. Each of the winners shifted his or her university culture by re-energizing teaching.”



Glen Van Brummelen 

Mathematics, Quest University

A founding tutor of Quest University and proponent of its unique interdisciplinary model, Van Brummelen believes in discovery-based learning, to the point where his spherical trigonometry class found a flaw in a 210-year-old theorem proof.


Gordon Stubley 

Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering, University of Waterloo

This mechanical engineering professor always puts students first. Stubley has also changed the culture of education at Waterloo, where he has had a hand in the teaching fellows program, their annual conference, and a new English literacy program.


Nicola Simmons 

Education, Brock University

Simmons leads by “moving out of the way so others can move into leadership roles.” She encourages learning via creativity—from free verse to Lego—and champions the scholarship of teaching and learning in Canada and internationally.


Jay Wilson 

Department of Curriculum Studies, College of Education, University of Saskatchewan

Wilson looks for ways to enhance the learning environment and include experiential learning, like shifting a video design course to rustic labs in a remote area. His innovations and leadership have re-energized the teaching culture at U of S.


Timothy S. O’Connell  

Department of Recreation, Brock University

O’Connell fosters success and leadership by teaching students to engage with the outdoors thoughtfully and reflectively. He leads wilderness trips for people with disabilities and conducts research in the benefits of experiential education.


Alison Flynn 

Chemistry, University of Ottawa

Flynn’s “flipped” classroom and strategic use of technology inspire an enthusiasm rarely seen in organic chemistry classes. A renowned instructor and researcher, she’s also transforming the way life sciences are taught at UOttawa and beyond.


Alan Steele 

Department of Electronics, Carleton University

Steele is changing the way electronics and electrical engineering are taught by bringing complex concepts to life in the classroom, and mentoring colleagues to do the same. His grads go on to be leading research engineers in optical communications.


Greg Evans 

Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry, University of Toronto

Evans is an environmental chemist who teaches engineering students to think like global citizens. He builds bridges to help marginalized students enter STEM and is a pioneer in engineering education as a profession.


James Fraser 

Physics, Queen’s University

Fraser creates learning communities where students partner with professors and participate as “apprentice scientists.” He mentors colleagues in this visionary teaching method, which has already helped reduce the gender gap in physics at Queen’s.


Shelly Wismath 

Liberal Education Program, University of Lethbridge

Wismath is a “teaching ninja” with a subtle, diplomatic style. Both a distinguished mathematician and a leader in the scholarship of teaching and learning, she’s a role model for women in STEM and a pioneer of liberal education at Lethbridge.