SFU Gallery of Teaching Excellence | Back to gallery home page >>

Michelle Pidgeon

SFU Excellence in Teaching Award, 2016

Faculty of Education

This post is reprinted from the SFU News blog. Read the original post by Diane Luckow here.

Michelle Pidgeon became a professor of education because of her love for research, not a desire to teach.

But as she took on her teaching responsibilities, with mentorship from colleagues and support from SFU’s Teaching and Learning Centre, Pidgeon found ways to make teaching relevant to herself and her goals. In the process, she discovered a new passion and talent that has been recognized this year with an SFU Excellence in Teaching Award.

Pidgeon, who is of Aboriginal ancestry, says her teaching pedagogy is steeped in an Indigenous holistic framework grounded in the four ‘Rs’—respect, relationships, relevance and reciprocity.

“I respect the students and the knowledge and experiences they bring into the classroom,” she says. “We are in a reciprocal relationship even if only for the length of the course—we all have something to learn from each other. All of us are responsible for learning, and I think learning has to be relevant,” she says. “By holding to those four ‘Rs’, it makes me really aware of the way I am in the classroom with students.”

While Pidgeon was completing her undergraduate and master’s degrees at Memorial University she held a variety of positions in student affairs, an experience that also informed her teaching with a student-centred perspective.  

“I had that sense of engagement before coming to SFU,” she says. “That’s why I love teaching here. We are responsive and engaged in the communities we work with, and your teaching has to reflect that too.”

Says a student nominator, “Michelle Pidgeon is an exemplary educator who understands that how she teaches is as important as what she teaches.”

Indeed, Pidgeon sees teaching as an interactive process. For example, she involves students in co-constructing the class curriculum to ensure the topics are relevant to their interests, and she eschews a lecture-based format in favour of teamwork, presentations and group work.

“Let’s make it about the real world,” she says.

But Pidgeon doesn’t only teach students, she also learns from them.

“They’ve taught me to always be that curious learner, to always have a passion for what’s happening around us locally and globally, and to respect the knowledge everyone brings into a learning environment,” she says.

“Whether they’re returning as an older learner or entering from high school, they all bring experiences, family dynamics and all kinds of things that make the classroom experience interesting. In a philosophy that is embodied in respect and relevance, establishing connections with each other makes the classroom more exciting and meaningful for them.”