Dr. Chris Clark (MVetSc) is a Master Teacher Award winner and USSU Teaching Excellence Award recipient in the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at USask. (Photo: Katie Brickman-Young)

Chris Clark: The recipe for teaching success

Teaching was not a profession that Dr. Chris Clark (MVetSc) envisioned for himself when he first came to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) as an intern.

By Katie Brickman-Young

“It wasn’t something I would have considered doing,” Clark said. “Over a three- or four-year period, I realized that rather than being a general practitioner, I wanted to work in an academic institution with a focus on teaching.”

Clark came to the University of Saskatchewan (USask) after completing his undergraduate and veterinary degrees at Cambridge in England. Following his internship, he returned to England for a year before coming back to USask to complete his residency, master’s and PhD in veterinary pharmacology. He joined the WCVM faculty in 2002 and was named associate dean in 2015.

For nearly 20 years, Clark has been teaching his students to learn beyond the classroom. Over those years, he has come to realize the impact of being passionate has on himself and his students.

“The secret sauce is you have to be enthusiastic,” said Clark. “One quote that has stayed with me: love your subject, love your students, and make sure your students love your subject.”

It was that enthusiasm and the opportunity given to him to teach as a resident that paved an exceptional path for himself as a professor, earning some of the university’s highest honours.

In 2016, he earned USask’s prestigious Master Teacher Award and was honoured with the USSU Teaching Excellence Award. In 2012, Clark received USask’s Provost’s College Award for Outstanding Teaching, as well as the Pfizer Carl J. Norden Distinguished Teacher Award from the American Veterinary Medical Association in 2011.

“I am slightly in awe, to be honest, that someone noticed and cared enough to nominate me,” said Clark. “It is real privilege to be ranked with other people who have won the awards as well. I strongly believe that the awards represent the commitment of this school to good teaching because I am surrounded by amazing teachers here.”

Clark believes his students also make it easier for him to teach the topics that he does and that the students are the most enjoyable part of teaching.

“I recognize that I have this incredibly privileged position because our vet school is for Western Canada and we take some of the very best students from the four provinces,” he said. “There is an incredible amount of information the students need to know to graduate and when you see your students get the information—not just memorize it—is a great feeling.”

Clark received plenty of advice and encouragement from colleagues in his early days of teaching, but some of the best advice he has gotten came from students.

“The two things that upsets students the most is that they can’t hear you. Number two: finish on time. You are antagonizing the entire class when you can’t finish on time,” he said. “Being loud, being enthusiastic and finishing on time is a great recipe for success and really important, as that turns out.”

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