In Memoriam: Anne Marie Ryan (1955–2022)

Anne Marie Ryan, a beloved University Teaching Fellow in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Dalhousie University, touched our hearts deeply. Although many of us only met her for the first time in 2019, when we, along with Anne Marie, received the 3M National Teaching Fellowship, she had a profound impact on all of us, enriching our lives, our personal and professional outlook, and our teaching.

From our first gathering as a cohort at the 2019 STLHE conference in Winnipeg, we were all touched by her joy and kindness, her creative approaches to teaching, and her amazing smile that would light up a room. In November we met again in Montebello, Quebec, for a 3M Teaching Fellow retreat. It was there that we got to know each other better and discovered Anne Marie’s deep love of family, her care and concern for students, and her compassion for humanity–it was just so clear. One activity we did as a group in Montebello is notable; our task was to write a letter to our future selves with some sage advice. Anne Marie wrote the following words to her future self: “Remember stories, different perspectives, and joy – also, too much busyness can destroy creativity & ideas or keep them from moving forward – don’t let this happen. Remember the heart is important – always!”

Anne Marie had an enormous impact on the lives of those who knew her.  Indeed, Anne Marie’s generosity, kindness, and caring for her students both inside and outside the classroom was legendary.  She was a role model to her students who benefited from her “compassion for and faith in her students.” Yvonne Ritchie [former student] says that she was able “to connect with her in a way that is unmatched by any of [her] other professors. She inspired [her] to take risks, to challenge [herself] and to step outside of [her] comfort zone, and ultimately to become a stronger leader.” Similarly, former student Catherine Evans highlights Anne Marie’s “compassion for students outside of the classroom,” noting that “she is well loved by her current and past students as a result.”  “The level of care that Anne Marie put into every class she taught” was shown in “the effort and time she put into ensuring she knew every student name and spoke to them about their progress and interests over the course of the semester,” wrote Nathan Glas [former student]. Good teachers deliver curriculum and content, great teachers engage and inspire students, but the best teachers transform and empower them. There is no doubt that Anne Marie was one of the best, as outlined by an anonymous former student:

“I have learned a little bit more about my values, my passions and myself as a whole. I have learned more about science in the big picture, how research really works in the world and important issues to be considered when researching or forming opinions about papers. I have never before encountered a teacher that really made me think about my place in the science world. She doesn’t just teach how to learn science or how to perform science but really how to be a person in science.” 

Since the time of STLHE 2019 and Montebello, our 3M National Teaching fellow cohort has presented together in different settings. We invite you to watch Anne Marie Ryan share her warm personality and creative approaches to teaching in the following clips, so that you too can witness her magic:

“Teaching after Covid-19: Panel Discussion by 3M National Teaching Fellows (2019),” Faculty of Business Teaching Colloquium, University of New Brunswick, online, May 6, 2021

“Welcome to our Classroom,” Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education Unconference, online, June 8, 2021

3M National Teaching Fellow cohort (2019), Debra Dawson (2019 Fellowship Co-ordinator) and Shannon Murray (2019 adjudicator)

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