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Student focused

Engineering professor receives Atlantic Canadian Distinguished Teaching Award

Teaching and Learning

By Jackey Locke

The secret to Dr. Geoff Rideout’s teaching success is rooted in his passion for his students, their success, and his unique ability to view the curriculum he teaches from his students’ perspective.

While wearing inline skates, Dr. Rideout, a mechanical engineering professor in Memorial’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, throws a bag of cement to demonstrate how conservation of momentum will propel him backwards. He demonstrates shaft whirl by using a foam pool noodle and a cordless drill. He asks students to predict how far ice will be thrown from the blades of a wind turbine and to verify the police report concerning the speed of a vehicle in a traffic accident in which he was involved.

It is because of his hands-on approach to teaching that Dr. Rideout was presented with the 2018 Association of Atlantic Universities (AAU) Distinguished Teaching Award on Sept. 20.

On behalf of the AAU, Dr. Mary Bluechardt, president and vice-chancellor, Mount Saint Vincent University and incoming liaison to the AAU Council, presented Dr. Rideout with his award.
On behalf of the AAU, Dr. Mary Bluechardt, president and vice-chancellor, Mount Saint Vincent University and incoming liaison to the AAU Council, presented Dr. Rideout with his award.
Photo: AAU

The AAU is made up of the 16 universities in the Atlantic region and in the West Indies. It presents up to two awards annually in recognition of excellence in university teaching over a number of years, primarily at the undergraduate level.

Attaching meaning

For Dr. Rideout, the award is reassurance that his teaching techniques are effective and more reason for him to continue to improve.

“It’s good to hear from the outside world that I’m doing some things that appear effective, innovative and impactful,” he said. “It has energized me to keep taking some risks, and to experiment with new methods of teaching and assessing.”

While he uses his personal experiences as an individual and as a professor in his teaching, Dr. Rideout recalls a tutoring experience when he was in graduate school that taught him that everyone has a different learning style and that his students will have different challenges than he did.

“I have to take it on faith that I’m making an impact.” –Dr. Geoff Rideout

“Sometimes it’s not that students can’t learn the material, but they just need to attach meaning to it,” said Dr. Rideout. “I was explaining things in a way that would work for me, but the student wasn’t making progress.

“One day we were having a seemingly unrelated conversation where he wanted me to tell him how a real-life engineering system worked. I became concerned as my explanation touched on material from more advanced courses. To my surprise, he became energized and motivated because he made a big-picture connection that worked for him.”

Dr. Rideout says that student did well in the course, and was almost in tears as he expressed his gratitude.

Making an impact

When it comes to the impact he’s having on his students, Dr. Rideout’s response is humble.

“A firefighter knows that once they’ve put the fire out, they’ve made a difference,” he said.

“As a university teacher, I can only try to give my students some base knowledge, connect that knowledge to things that are meaningful to them and hope it combines with all their other experiences to make them better practitioners and people. I have to take it on faith that I’m making an impact.”

Dr. Greg Naterer, dean, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, is proud of professors like Dr. Rideout.

“Congratulations to Dr. Rideout on receiving this teaching excellence award,” he said.

“This award is well-deserved. It is with efforts and dedication to teaching like Dr. Rideout’s that give Memorial’s engineering programs such a high reputation across Canada. His exceptional passion and priorities on quality student learning are inspirations to all of us as educators.”

Dr. Rideout has received numerous teaching awards throughout his career, including the Professional Engineering and Geoscientists Newfoundland and Labrador (PEGNL) Teaching Award in 2015; the President’s Award for Outstanding Teaching in 2014; and the Dean’s Award for Distinguished Teaching, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science in 2013.

With files from AAU.

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