For Shirley Van Nuland, teaching and learning are all about relationships. “It’s important for students to develop close relationships with their teachers and professors,” she says. “That’s key.”
Van Nuland knows what she’s talking about. She has been involved in education for more than 40 years, as a classroom teacher, university professor and researcher. Last year, she established a student award at Brescia.
Van Nuland went to teachers’ college directly from high school and taught for several years, earning university credits at summer school and night school. She attended Brescia fulltime for two years to continue her degree. Fascinated by history, she relished the opportunity to learn from top scholars. She has especially warm memories of studying with Professor Pat Skidmore at Brescia. “I loved Dr. Skidmore’s style—the way she worked with us as individuals, gave us really good feedback, and engaged us actively in class, all the things I think are important.”
Being part of Brescia’s small community strengthened Van Nuland’s belief in the importance of relationships. “I had begun to understand it as a classroom teacher,” she says. “At Brescia I had the opportunity to interact directly with people who were really excited about what they were teaching.”
Van Nuland carried that understanding with her into a long and illustrious career. She spent 20 years as a teacher, vice-principal and principal in Ontario schools, then a decade as an Education Officer in the Ministry of Education and Training. She served as a professor in the Faculty of Education at Nipissing University, where she received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2004. In 2005 she joined the University of Ontario Institute of Technology’s Faculty of Education, most recently as Academic Lead for the Bachelor of Education program.
Van Nuland, completed a Master of Education and a PhD in philosophy. Recently retired, she is still very active. “Sitting around twiddling my thumbs is not happening!” She continues to conduct research, write, review and mentor young scholars.
“I’m at a point in my life when I can do something like this,” she says of her generous contribution to Brescia. “I want this award to give students the time they need to build relationships with their professors beyond the classroom and engage in the Brescia and wider community, instead of having to work a part-time job to pay for their education.”