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June 9, 2003 10:42 AM

Electronics Professor Wins Conestoga's Top Teaching Honour

Nancy Nelson, a professor in the Electronics and Computer Engineering Technology programs at Conestoga College, has been chosen winner of the Aubrey Hagar Distinguished Teaching Award, the College's top honour for a faculty member.

Nancy is the sixteenth winner of the award since its inception and will be recognized by President John Tibbits during the 35th Convocation ceremonies on Wednesday, June 18. The award consists of an inscribed and framed College Coat of Arms, a specially designed Conestoga College Liripipe and a professional development bursary of $800.

The award is named for Aubrey Hagar, a distinguished member of the Conestoga College community for more than 20 years. A member of the College's founding Board of Governors, Mr. Hagar went on to provide valuable service and leadership to the College as Director of Academic and College Planning, then as Director of Strategic Planning. During his time at Conestoga, the College developed an excellent reputation for curriculum and academic program development, and Aubrey Hagar became known and respected provincially, nationally and internationally for his expertise. Upon his retirement, the College created the award to recognize annually a faculty member for distinguished service in the areas of teaching, curriculum development, academic innovation and enrichment of the student experience.

Nancy Nelson came to Conestoga College in 1984, following a period of employment as a design engineer with Canadian General Electric in Peterborough. She graduated in 1981 from Queen's University with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering. A firm believer in he value of continuous learning and education, she earned her masters degree in 1996 from McMaster University, with a dual emphasis on electrical engineering and teaching.

Other than one year when Nancy led the educational technology efforts at Conestoga, she has been in the electronics engineering programs, teaching a number of courses in the areas of computer hardware, software and controls.

"Although I teach both hardware and software, software is my area," she says, noting that she has taught digital and microprocessor fundamentals, languages such as C, Java and Windows programming, as well as object-oriented (end-user) approaches to software development and applications.

Nancy particularly enjoys teaching first-year students in Conestoga's electronics programs. Although keenly aware of how much the field has changed in light of the power and speed of technological advances, she says that the basics of electronics are still the same and believes that a solid foundation in these basics is the key to academic success. This is why she feels there are great rewards for her as a teacher in working with first-year students.

"My goal is to provide the challenge that allows students to go beyond what they think they are capable of. I have found that given the opportunity to be creative, they respond."

Nancy has sought out new ways and means to reach students and offer them challenges. During her postgraduate studies at McMaster, she integrated educational technology, instructional design, educational psychology and machine intelligence into the design and development of an intelligent program for computer-based learning. Working with her husband, Brad, a Conestoga professor of mechanical engineering technology, they developed software for the authoring, delivery and testing of computer-based learning materials. For this effort, they received the 1996 McGraw-Hill Ryerson Educational Innovation Award.

At Conestoga, Nancy has been able to share her expertise in computer-based learning with colleagues by leading workshops and providing mentoring. She has created online course materials as well as computer-based instructional and remedial modules. She has also developed testing and assessment tools, both in conjunction with her courses and in connection with pre-admission mathematics skills assessments.

Nancy enjoys working directly with individual students.

"I'm a supporter of educational technology if it is used properly. However, there is always a need for the teacher's presence, and there is no substitute for the value of the teacher-student interaction. To me, it is important to know the students as individuals."

Recently, Nancy has been an important participant in the development of Conestoga's first applied degree proposals. She was the lead faculty member, playing a key role in the program and curriculum design for one of Conestoga's four approved programs, Integrated Telecommunication and Computer Technologies. Her presentation skills are such that Nancy was selected to present the curriculum component for all four applied degree proposals to the province's Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Board (PEQAB).

In keeping with the theme of exploring new vistas, Nancy and Brad and their two sons, Robert and Jeffrey, enjoy the opportunity to travel when vacation time rolls around. They look forward to seeing new places and meeting new people, but equally enjoy being together in transit to whatever their destination, as they take their van on the road. The Nelsons reside in Cambridge.


CONTACT: Nancy Nelson, 519-748-5220, ext. 3724, nnelson@conestogac.on.ca

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