That Rosalie Jukier has won five major teaching awards at McGill is impressive. That she has done so in three separate decades is a testament to her indefatigable commitment to students.
“Rosalie doesn’t cruise,” said Robert Leckey, Dean of the Faculty of Law where Jukier has taught for the past 38 years. “Her career has been marked by decades of incredible dedication to the University, to the Faculty, and to her students.”
Jukier was honoured on November 20, as part of the afternoon Convocation ceremony, when she was presented with McGill’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Leadership in Learning.
One of McGill’s highest honours, the award recognizes sustained excellence in leadership and innovation which has had a significant impact on teaching and the learning experience at McGill and beyond, as well as the active integration of teaching and learning with inquiry, scholarship, and research.
“An accomplished scholar and passionate educator, Professor Jukier has been contributing to teaching and learning at McGill for almost 40 years, and has done so in many capacities,” said Provost Christopher Manfredi during the ceremony. “As a teacher, her students praise her pedagogical skills and engaging style, her erudition, her brilliance as a scholar, and her kindness and thoughtfulness as a colleague and mentor.”
The award will go nicely with Jukier’s three John W. Durnford Teaching Excellence Awards (2004, 2016, 2018), as chosen by Faculty of Law students; and her 2010 Principal’s Prize for Excellence in Teaching.
No to the status quo
Being so often recognized and honoured by students, colleagues, and administrators, you’d think Jukier would stick to teaching the courses she knows so well, using tried and true lesson plans. But one of the keys to Jukier’s classroom success is that she’s not content with the status quo.
“Cruising is boring and there’s nothing worse than a bored teacher,” said Jukier when told of Leckey’s comment.
Instead, she’s been reinventing herself since she taught her first class at McGill in 1985.
From 2005 to 2007, Jukier left McGill for two years on secondment to work for the National Judicial Institute where she worked on legal education for judges. When she came back to McGill, she pivoted from teaching contract law to teaching judicial institutions and civil procedure.
“I’ve now taught it for over 15 years, and I just love that course, but it also fed my research agenda – I started publishing in that area,” Jukier said. “Changing courses and reinventing yourself has so many benefits.”
This year, she is taking on an entirely new course load, including an integration workshop for first-year students, and a doctoral-level seminar on legal education.
“I think you have to challenge yourself – but you don’t necessarily have to take on new courses in new areas to challenge yourself. You can also challenge yourself within a course,” she said. “After giving a certain course for a number of years, I decided to offer it as I flipped classroom. It’s wonderful to reimagine yourself.”
Feeding off the energy
Jukier admits she feels some trepidation when taking on a new course.
“But with the nervousness comes a lot of excitement. When you’re excited, the students are excited,” she said.
“Counterintuitively, some of my best course evaluations are in the first year that I’ve taught a class. You’re putting so much into it and you’re dotting every ‘i’ and crossing every ‘t’ – because you don’t know everything. You’re just one class ahead of the students,” she laughed. “They sense that excitement and energy and the work that you’re putting into it, and they feed off it. It can be very rewarding.”
Leckey knows Jukier as well as anybody. In 2000, he had her as a teacher for a course on contractual obligations. Six years later, Leckey returned to the Faculty, but this time as the newest faculty member.
“As a teacher, Rosalie is known for her enthusiasm, and her interest in making things concrete for the students … She’s always super-prepared, and very committed to making the class stimulating,” he said. “And she was extremely supportive to me as a junior colleague as well – giving me advice on preparing those first exams, grading, and how best to work with students.”
Gifted teacher and administrator
In the end, it’s always been about the students for Jukier, both as a teacher and an administrator.
From 1995 to 2001, Jukier was McGill’s Dean of Students. To no one’s surprise, her tenure in that office was marked by a series of seminal pro-student initiatives, including the creation of both the First Peoples’ House and the First-Year Office. She also spearheaded the construction and opening of the Brown Student Services Building.
Last year, on the strength of her sterling work as an administrator, Julier was honoured as a co-recipient of McGill’s inaugural Morty Yalovsky Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Academic Leadership. “It’s really remarkable that someone would be such a gifted teacher and also have made such an administrative impact,” said Leckey.
“I love nothing more than working with students and young adults. It’s my favourite demographic,” said Jukier. “But my six years as Dean of Students solidified my student-centered approach. It taught me the importance of students’ wellbeing as a gateway to their learning success.”
A teacher’s impact
Jukier keeps in touch with former students, many with whom she has developed longstanding friendships. Some reach out years after graduating to share recent cases or legal articles with Jukier and to thank her for the lessons they learned in her classes.
Jukier feels a deep sense of pride when she meets former students who have gone on to successful careers. “Some are politicians, authors, judges – many have become movers and shakers in the legal community who are really making a difference,” she said.
“Some of the letters written in support [of Jukier’s nomination for the Lifetime Achievement Award] by former students talked about Rosalie’s deep dedication as a mentor which lasts after people take her class, after people graduate, as they move on with their careers,” said Leckey.
“Generations of people are better jurists, because of Rosalie,” he said. “They’re more rigorous, and more creative jurists as a result of being in her classes. And now they’re having an impact all around the world. That is a true legacy.”