The term ‘born to teach’ applies to few educators as accurately as it does to Jan Lashbrook Green, this year’s recipient of the University of the Fraser Valley’s Teaching Excellence Award.
The honour arrives just in time for Lashbrook Green, who retires this spring after dedicating the last four decades to the field of education.
A former UFV Library and Information Technology (LIBIT) student who then taught in the program for 13 years, she humbly empathizes with the rigors of pursuing post-secondary education.
“I love to teach, and the more I teach the more I try to encourage my students to keep asking questions, because I don’t know everything,” she says.
“I’ve sat in that class. I know the challenges.”
Just because Jan has a rich history of teaching and originally studied with different technologies, doesn’t mean she’s tied to traditional models. She encourages the use of smartphones in class, and values quality online learning which maintains interpersonal connections and nourishes community and critical thinking.
“I’m always blown away by students’ depth of personal critique — they can tell me what they see as strengths and weaknesses. I’m deeply humbled by the trust they show in me by their clear-eyed personal analysis. It’s a means to develop self-confidence and when they grow in so many ways this confidence allows them to take on greater and greater challenges.”
She believes deeply in the very core of LIBIT training, saying, “You can’t make informed decisions if you don’t have good information.”
She gets students up and out of their seats for assignments and brainstorming sessions — writing on the board, talking to each other, making connections.
“They come into the program very independent, and they learn quickly they’re able to find support in their fellow students, and they’re able to support other students, too.
“The community of students is really important to me.”
And so is a good belly laugh.
“Humour helps you learn. Ours is a challenging program so the students are often tense. When you laugh, you breathe deeper and give your brain more oxygen,” she explains.
“It’s smart to laugh.”
And it’s also smart to learn. After graduating with a Bachelor of Education from the University of British Columbia in 1972, Lashbrook Green taught elementary school in Victoria before taking time off to start her family. She resumed her education with UCFV’s Library & Information Studies diploma in 1998 before returning to UBC for her Master of Library & Information Studies in 2001. She worked as both a library technician and a librarian at the Surrey Public Library before joining UFV for a stint as a sessional instructor in 2001, then as permanent faculty in 2002.
Lashbrook Green has touched many lives over that time, and her peers and students lined up to support her Teaching Excellence nomination.
“She is one of the most dedicated teachers I have ever had the pleasure of working with,” offered UFV LIBIT department head Dr. Kenneth Gariepy, adding that she taught 15 discrete courses in the last 15 years. Every single time those courses were taught, they required revision due to seismic changes in the profession and the information management field.
“This dedication is fueled by her profound sense of responsibility to the needs of students and her deep respect for the experience of knowledge they bring to their education.”
That dedication doesn’t go unnoticed.
Natalie Ng enrolled in UFV’s LIBIT program in 2012, 20 years removed from her last experience with formal education. Her trepidation was quickly laid to rest by Jan’s thorough, warm teaching style.
“I was fortunate to have Professor Lashbrook Green as one of my first instructors. From the outset, she clearly established our learning outcomes and each week of instruction was carefully organized to build upon the last week. Lectures were supported through assignments, quizzes, classroom activities, group discussions, and examinations, all of which were designed to help students learn and better understand the course materials and foster strong attention to detail.”
Lashbrook Green constantly went out of her way to satisfy student questions and concerns in and out of the classroom, even dropping in on after-class study groups.
Over her years at UFV, Lashbrook Green dedicated tremendous amounts of time and effort to mentoring faculty and establishing new procedures and policies to support students. Some examples of her work include developing practicum guidelines, and invigilation procedures for students-at-a distance, as well as revisions to program requirements and admission policies. She dedicated her 2010 sabbatical to examining the practice of self-reflection and assessment during the learning process.
As she strides towards retirement, Lashbrook Green looks back on her UFV experience.
“I absolutely love being in the classroom with all the challenges a teacher faces. I also really, really like the people I teach. I enjoy being with them,” she says.
“I’ve been a student here, and a teacher. I’ve made friends and lifelong memories. It’s been a real full circle,” she says.
“It’s been great.”