'She's all about the students'

- November 27, 2008

Theatre professor Roberta Barker is described as dynamic and passionate by her students. (Nick Pearce Photo)

A graduate of both the University of King’s College and Dalhousie, theatre professor Roberta Barker has had a lot of great teachers—teachers like Trevor Ross in the English department whom she describes as “rigorous and illuminating.” And Christina Luckyj, her master’s supervisor, who was ready with insight and a listening ear whenever she needed it. Not to mention Jure Gantar, now a colleague in the theatre department, who she calls a “real model of generosity.”

Her own students speak of her in similarly glowing terms. In fact, on their recommendations, she was named “best professor” in The Coast’s annual Best Of Halifax issue.

“She is such a dynamic professor and is clearly in love with her subject,” says Candyce Sellars, a fourth-year theatre student. “I’m sure that even if they didn’t pay her, she would still teach.”

“As a director she’s really personable and a lot of fun,” adds Caitlin Kennedy, who acted in The Witch of Edmonton, a DalTheatre play Dr. Barker directed. “She’s all about the students.”

“I think I was one of the most fortunate of students. I had a great experience at King’s and Dalhousie,” reflects Dr. Barker, in her office in the theatre department in the Dalhousie Arts Centre. She’s also on the faculty at King’s, teaching students in Early Modern Studies and in the Foundation Year program. She did her undergraduate degree in English and Classics at King’s and her master’s degree in English at Dalhousie. For the past eight years, she calls herself fortunate to work alongside several of the professors she had as a student and continues to admire.

“Some teachers are like featherbeds and some are like roller coaster rides… While the approaches are different, both can be equally nurturing.”

Her own approach to teaching is to let her unabashed love for her subject matter— theatre history—shine through to her students. She also strives to make the classroom a nurturing and open place to fully explore ideas, even if they prove unpopular. She says that requires sharing her own experiences in classroom discussions.

“Being able to bring your own vulnerabilities to class, to make jokes at your own expense is an important part of showing students (the classroom) is a safe place to share and think critically,” says Dr. Barker. She is teaching classes including Modern Theatre (THEA 3500), Colonial Canadian Theatre (THEA 4500) and its companion Post Colonial Canadian Theatre (4501) and Opera and the Idea of Enlightenment (EMSP 3240) at King’s.

Charlotte Loppie, associate professor in Dal’s School of Health and Human Performance, made her annual appearance on The Coast’s Best Of Halifax list as a runner-up. She teaches the popular, fourth-year class Human Sexuality (HPRO 4412).

Dal philosophy professor Duncan MacIntosh was lauded as best professor in last year’s issue.

LINK: The Coast's Best of Halifax 2008


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