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Home About SAIT News & Events What makes top teachers tick?

What makes top teachers tick?

Heritage halls.

The students have spoken and SAIT's Student Association (SAITSA) is celebrating one of the campus' most honourable instructor achievements, the student-nominated Instructor Excellence Awards.

From 161 nominations, nine received recognition based on their commitment to the classroom and unique ability to go above and beyond their call of duty.

We caught up with this year's winners to learn a bit more about who they are and why students think they shine. 

Jim Esposito, McPhail School of Energy
Time at SAIT: Four years

Jim Esposito What does it mean to you to be recognized by your students?

This award was a tremendous surprise, a humbling honour and a re-affirmation of my life-long belief that when you are passionate about your craft, success happens. I consider this award one of my most notable life achievements and I wish to thank my students for nominating me. I love you all - now let's get back to work.

If a student could only take one lesson from your class, what would you want it to be?

We have the ability to do great things to improve the human condition with abundant, clean energy but we must proceed wisely and thoughtfully or we will do great harm.

If there was one song that described your personality best, what would it be and why?

Bachman Turner Overdrive's Takin' Care of Business and Pitbull's Fireball.



Keri deMille, Academic Services
Time at SAIT: 11 years

Keri deMilleWhat does it mean to you to be recognized by your students?

For students to take personal time out to say thank you in this way means a ton to me. My teaching group is chock-full of excellent instructors, so to be nominated within this group by our common students is a genuine honour.

What is one lesson your students have taught you?

Our student population has such a diversity of life history and cultural backgrounds - you never know what the student has experienced before entering your classroom. To invite conversation and encourage sharing perspectives enriches the entire classroom experience.

If there was one song that described your personality best, what would it be and why?

A Rush and a Push and the Land is Ours by the Smiths.


Aron Weber, School of Hospitality and Tourism
Time at SAIT: Three years

Aron WeberIf a student could only take one thing with them from your class, what do you hope it would be?

If you have time to lean, you have time to clean!

What has teaching others taught you most about yourself?

I have discovered that I really enjoy sharing my knowledge and experience with students - it's a very rewarding position to be in.

If there was one song that described your personality best, what would it be and why?

Robots by Flight of the Conchords. I like to see myself as a pastry robot - very organized, but also with a sense of humour!

Name one thing about you that most people at SAIT wouldn't know.

I studied Jazz for two years in university and love playing guitar and piano.


Rob Wall, School of Transportation
Time at SAIT: 33 years

Rob WallWhat does it mean to you to be recognized in this way by your students?

The award itself is a great surprise - I am honoured. The feedback from the students is the most rewarding part of the job.

If a student could only take one thing with them from your class, what do you hope it would be?

Man made it, man can fix it.

What is one lesson your students have taught you?

I try to learn one thing from every person. The students always come up with different ways to look at things, which causes one to reflect on concepts.

Name one thing about you that most people at SAIT wouldn't know.

That three generations of our family are SAIT graduates, including both my children.


Milan Niksic, School of Construction
Time at SAIT: Seven years

Milan NiksicWhat does it mean to you to be recognized in this way by your students?

I can't put it into words very easily without getting emotional. To be recognized by the students I teach means everything to me. It is confirmation that I am making a direct impact on the students I meet every semester. It humbles me to know that they think so highly of me.

If a student could only take one thing with them from your class, what do you hope it would be?

A stapler. No, they have to leave it behind after using it. All joking aside, I want my students to know that I am here for them, as their teacher and mentor and it's safe to be themselves.

Name one thing about you that most people at SAIT wouldn't know.

I was once an Apprentice Mechanic at Marlborough Ford and was really good at it. I faced a crossroads when I was accepted to SAIT's Civil Engineering program. I chose civil engineering and the rest is history. I am working at the best job of my life - teaching.


Micheline Courtney, School of Health and Public Safety
Time at SAIT: Eight years

Micheline CourtneyIf a student could only take one thing with them from your class, what do you hope it would be?

Love what you do! Find your passion and give it life.

What has teaching others taught you most about yourself?

I am not as smart as I think I am. There is a lot of truth to the statement that the best way to really comprehend a subject is to teach it to others.

If there was one song that described your personality best, what would it be and why?

Whip It by Devo. "When a problem comes along, you must whip it."

What is one lesson your students have taught you?

To be patient, tolerant of differences and to see something of value in everyone.


George Gavelis, School of Manufacturing and Automation
Time at SAIT: 12 years

George GavelisWhat does it mean to you to be recognized by your students?

It is most gratifying to me knowing that my efforts in helping my students prepare for the future were appreciated.

If a student could only take one lesson from your class, what would you want it to be?

A passion to keep learning. The science and technology involved in non-destructive testing are constantly evolving and advancing. I hope my students expand their horizons and embrace what the future will bring.

Name one thing about you that most people at SAIT wouldn't know.

Prior to coming to SAIT, I retired as Senior Non-Commissioned Officer after 30 years of service in the Canadian Air Force.


Liam RileyLiam Riley, School of Business
Time at SAIT: Three years

What does it mean to you to be recognized by your students?

It's nice to be recognized in this way. I find my job to be very rewarding and it is nice to know that my students appreciate my contribution to their education.

If a student could only take one lesson from your class, what would you want it to be?

An appreciation of British humour.

Name one thing about you that most people at SAIT wouldn't know.

I like to wear odd socks.



Richard Stroobant, School of Information and Communications Technology
Time at SAIT: 10 years.

Richard StroobantIf a student could only take one thing with them from your class, what do you hope it would be?

No matter what you do, you really have to love it. Nobody has ever been successful in something they didn't care about. If you are willing to do something for free, then that is what you should do for a job.

What is one lesson has your students have taught you?

I learn lessons from my students all the time, but I think the biggest one is that absolutely anything is possible. In the time I have been at SAIT, I have seen our students reach amazing, unimaginable heights. Just this past month one of our students started working for the Howard Stern Show in New York City.

Name one thing about you that most people at SAIT wouldn't know.

I always wanted to be involved in radio. I would call in and request songs as a kid just to try and get my voice on the radio. I would play music in my parent's basement pretending I was a DJ. There was no plan b for me - it was radio or bust!


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