Eileen Herteis, Director of the Purdy Crawford Teaching Centre (PCTC), was recently awarded the inaugural Distinguished Educational Development Career Award from the Educational Developers Caucus of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE). This award recognizes excellence and leadership in the field of educational development and is administered by the national body for educational development in Canada, the Educational Developers Caucus.
1- Describe your work and educational experience.
I have been director of the PCTC at Mount Allison for almost 13 years, since May 2004. Before that, I was program director at the Gwenna Moss Teaching & Learning Centre at the University of Saskatchewan. I started in educational development at Dalhousie in 1989 — initially a part-time position that allowed me to continue teaching English literature and business and technical communications at various Halifax universities. I studied English and Classics at Glasgow University and came to Montreal from Scotland to start my graduate work on a one-year Glasgow-McGill exchange scholarship. Almost 40 years later, I’m still here!
2- How has educational development changed over the years?
When I started in educational development in 1989, the field was just emerging and very few universities even had teaching centres. Much of my work was taken up with “how” questions: how to teach large classes; how to encourage student participation; how to gather feedback about teaching. I used to call it “quick tips and magic bullets.” Fast-forward to today and the profession is fully entrenched in higher education from policy-making to classroom practice. Not only are teaching centres common, but many larger universities have vice-presidents of teaching and learning, most of whom started out as educational developers themselves. The conversations around pedagogy have changed also from “how” to “why,” and teaching itself is being recognized as a consequential scholarly endeavour in its own right.
3- What does it mean to you to win the first Distinguished Educational Development Career Award?
It is a tremendous honour to be recognized by my peers, both by the colleagues from Mount A and various universities who wrote on my behalf and by the committee that selected me. But more than that, I see this as an appropriate honour for Mount Allison. My time here has been blessed with outstanding, generous colleagues who have participated in programs, shared their expertise, and contributed to the success of the PCTC.
4 - Of the many reasons you were nominated, what are you most proud of during your time at Mount A?
The things that encourage fruitful conversations among faculty, especially those that also involve students, are most satisfying to me. The Teaching Triangles program has been perennially popular. Triangles are composed of three faculty members from different departments and different levels of seniority who visit each other’s classes with a view to learning things they can try for themselves. Most importantly, though, the participants make connections across disciplinary boundaries and “talk teaching” in meaningful ways. Similarly the monthly Interdisciplinary Conversations (which I co-convene with Sandy MacIver, Christl Verduyn, and Ardath Whynacht) and the Quo Vadimus discussion group (with Marc Truitt) allow for lively, engaged conversations across campus. And once again, these programs succeed because Mount Allison colleagues contribute to and embrace them.
5- What are you passionate about outside of work?
We bought a cottage on the Northumberland Strait a few years ago. It is so peaceful — no Internet, no TV, just the lovely rhythm of the sea and lots of good books to read. But I guess such serenity is the opposite of passion! Right now, I’m pretty passionate about the possibility of a second referendum on Scottish independence. I have a YES button from the last one and was bitterly disappointed at the result, playing Dougie Maclean’s Caledonia endlessly on my computer.
BONUS QUESTION: If you could be doing anything else, what would it be?
The thing about academic work, well for me at least, is that I never actually finish — I just run out of time to do more. So I’d love to do something where I’d know when I was done; however, it would have to involve books. Working in a bookstore with good coffee would be the perfect alternative job for me — provided it allowed dogs.