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Selkirk College educators honoured by students, colleagues

The college handed out its annual SCOPE awards
Recipients of the 2023 SCOPE Awards include (L-R): Victor Villa, Elizabeth Ferguson, Jamie Bliss and Kerri Webb. Photo: Submitted

Submitted by Selkirk College

It was an evening to celebrate those who fuel the engine of education with four outstanding Selkirk College instructors honoured as 2023 SCOPE Award recipients.

The annual Standing Committee on Professional Excellence (SCOPE) Awards are an opportunity for both students and colleagues to recognize the talents and passion of instructors from across Selkirk College programs. Awarded by the Selkirk College Faculty Association (SCFA), the recipients are a testament to the creativity, diligence and expertise that fills the classrooms, labs, shops and studios on all campuses throughout the region.

“I’m really, really proud to be standing here in front of you,” award recipient Elizabeth Ferguson told those gathered at the early-October ceremony on the Castlegar Campus. “But no one does this work alone. I’m only standing here because of my colleagues, staff and leadership who make this possible every day. You shaped me, and I am grateful and humbled by this honour.”

Joining Ferguson as 2023 SCOPE Award winners are Jamie Bliss, Kerri Webb and Victor Villa. At the award ceremony, all four were provided tributes by colleagues who shared words from students, staff and faculty that were included in nomination packages.

Laying down the law

After practising law in both Vancouver and England, Jamie Bliss brought his passion for critical thinking and presentation to post-secondary where he currently teaches students in the School of Business, School of Environment and Geomatics and School of University Arts and Sciences. He was also instrumental in the creation of the two-year Law and Justice Studies Program that helps provide important first steps for those interested in a variety of legal profession careers.

Nominators invariably commented on his engaging teaching style, how he nurtures students toward excellence, how he works dynamically and collaboratively with colleagues, and how he goes above and beyond the call of duty to benefit not only our Selkirk College community, but partners in the region the college serves.

“Jamie’s class is the one I look forward to every week,” said one student nominator. “We always enjoy his lectures and punchlines. He is one-of-a-kind and makes every conversation a memorable one.”

Lessons from the heart

Teaching Indigenous Studies and English in the School of University Arts and Sciences, Elizabeth Ferguson’s roots are Dene Tha from Chateh, Alta. A Selkirk College alumna, she began her post-secondary journey in the region before transferring to the University of Lethbridge where she earned both her Bachelor of Arts and a Master’s Degree in Native American Studies.

Sharing the wisdom of many of her own teachers and elders, Ferguson embodies learner-focused, community engagement and innovation by fostering a healthy and safe learning environment. Vital in helping develop the college’s Indigenous courses and supporting faculty in the Indigenization of course content, she is well known for her deep devotion to learners.

“You are so wise and patient, you teach all of us,” said colleague Leesa Dean, who provided the evening’s tribute. “What comes up over and over in the letters from students is how you teach with love. Engagement and collaboration are fundamental in your teaching while encouraging all voices to be part of the conversation.”

Putting learners at centre

A profoundly motivated and devoted psychology instructor, Victor Villa is recognized for his exceptional skills and remarkable contributions to Selkirk College and his community as a whole. A veteran instructor in the School of University Arts and Sciences, he possesses an extraordinary talent for simplifying complex concepts using various teaching approaches tailored to individual students.

With a unique ability to engage with his classes through being vulnerable, nomination letters from students pointed to his ability to inspire while teaching. Active in anti-racism and social justice efforts, Villa’s energy for both mentoring and learning runs deep.

“I think of two words when it comes to Victor’s teaching: determination and optimism,” said colleague Todd Solarik, who provided the tribute. “He not only delivers the course material in a captivating way, his dealings with students genuinely show that Selkirk College is a kind place.”

Right formula for understanding

Packing a PhD in Math from the University of Waterloo, Kerri Webb brings her fascination and enthusiasm for problem solving to learners in the School of University Arts and Sciences, School of Business and School of Environment and Geomatics. Focused on making the numerous mathematics courses she teaches unintimidating and lively, she imparts a high standard on learners while finding ways to let them discover their own strengths.

From online boot camps for School of Business students to staying late after class to make sure all questions are answered, she is ultra-dedicated to both learners and her colleagues. Noted as “an exceptional human being” in nomination letters, Webb’s humble approach to connecting with students came through when she accepted her award.

“As teachers we have the opportunity influence the pathways that students take through life,” she told gathered colleagues. “Looking around this room, students at Selkirk College are fortunate to have such depth and breadth of instructors who care so much.”