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KUDOS! Professor Rollie Thompson receives Osgoode Professional Development Award for Teaching Excellence
Congratulations to the Schulich School of Law’s Professor Rollie Thompson, who recently received the Osgoode Professional Development Award for Teaching Excellence. Each year, one instructor in the Professional LLM Program is recognized with an Osgoode Teaching Award, with nominations submitted from students in all specializations.
Osgoode has 22 specializations, including Family Law, which is one of Thompson’s areas of expertise. He has been teaching Family Law at our law school, whether at Dalhousie Legal Aid Services or in the regular curriculum, since 1982.
Every second year from mid-April to mid-June, Thompson teaches a 36-hour course called Economic Issues: Child and Spousal Support at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School. He began teaching the required Professional LLM course when the program was launched in 2006-07, during a sabbatical year at the University of Toronto. That was when he and Carol Rogerson of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law were co-authoring the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines for the federal Department of Justice, comprehensive guidelines for determining the amount and duration of spousal support.
“That first class was extraordinary and a real mixed bag of students, from senior lawyers to younger lawyers,” says Thompson. “Some of them wanted to change the type of law they were practicing, while others were trying to broaden their knowledge. It was one of the best teaching experiences of my career, which drew me into doing it again and again.”
Critical analysis leads to possible law reforms
The Economic Issues course is designed to provide students with a solid grasp of laws related to child and spousal support in order to be able to apply this knowledge, understand the analysis of problems in the broad subject area, critically analyze support issues in different contexts, and develop an understanding of possible law reform issues.
Of Thompson’s 20 to 25 Osgoode students, who hail from across Canada, half might be in the classroom with him every second week, with the other half appearing onscreen via distance education online. Thompson enjoys teaching these students because they’re interested in exploring comparative law, theory, and policy.
Each Osgoode LLM student gives me ideas about how things are done in different parts of the country, which in turn I bring back to my Schulich Family Law students.
“They want to know how people do things in other countries, why the law is a certain way and what it would look like if we changed it,” says Thompson. “I like teaching practicing lawyers because they come to class highly motivated and keen to learn.”
Sharing knowledge, expertise
This year at the Schulich School of Law, Thompson will be teaching Family Law, Evidence, and the Supreme Court Family Division Placement for 2016–17 (previously, he also taught Civil Procedure). To a certain degree, his Osgoode curriculum informs his Schulich course material.
“Each Osgoode LLM student gives me ideas about how things are done in different parts of the country, which in turn I bring back to my Family Law students at Schulich,” says Thompson. “And because my LLM students ask different kinds of questions about the material, that can affect how I teach Family Law child and spousal support. Teaching a class to practitioners can lead to different insights about the operation of family laws.”
Teaching awards are always nice to receive. Sometimes you have amazing teaching days and sometimes you don’t. Students generally understand that, and if at the end of the course the students are happy, that’s great.
Thompson appreciates that he was nominated for the Osgoode award by his students. “Teaching awards are always nice to receive,” he says. “Sometimes you have amazing teaching days and sometimes you don’t – there are ups and downs over the period of time of a course. Students generally understand that, and if at the end of the course the students are happy, that’s great.”
Victoria Watkins, the executive director of the Osgoode Professional Development Program, is delighted that Thompson – who is a past recipient of the Dalhousie Law Alumni Association and Dalhousie Law Students’ Society Award for Teaching Excellence – is able to share his knowledge and expertise with the Osgoode students.
“We’ve had numerous nominations for Rollie this year and in the past,” says Watkins. “To quote one student: ‘Prof. Thompson is an extremely entertaining lecturer. He also has an incredible gift for simplifying complex topics, distilling them down to the essential elements. I came away from his course completely confident in my understanding of this area of law.’ ”
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