“My responsibility is to give them the best or it’s wasted time,” she says. With that kind of attitude is it any surprise she’s winning an award?
It surprised Ruth Brothers when she was nominated for the 2011 Toronto Star HR Professional of the Year Award, and surprised her when she won that award—one of the Human Resources Summit Awards for leadership in the profession. In part that’s because Brothers takes a “no-surprises” approach to human resources training and development in her role teaching employment recruitment and selection at Humber College. For Brothers, an important aspect of how people learn about a profession is the emphasis on real-world scenarios based on experience, and hands-on practice.
Stories help to crystallize a concept or a notion. The student can see “this is how it played out.” Prepare the student and the student will be unfazed by surprises.
Brothers approached Humber about teaching out of a desire to give back to the profession she loves. A partnership between one of her previous organizations and Humber, focusing on leadership, made Brothers aware that her teaching style would mesh well with the college’s mandate. Although she’d never taught in an applied academic setting, she was driven to teach continuing education because of her cultural affinity for it. Brothers is excited by the chance to share her knowledge with adults looking to redirect their careers into the HR field or those who have made a decision to go into HR. “It’s applied learning personified,” she says.
Although the demands of teaching on top of those of her position as a senior industry executive made the adjustment difficult at first, Brothers has taken to being an instructor out of a strong sense of responsibility. She feels responsible for the learning, comprehension, and performance of her students, and she accepts being constantly measured and evaluated by them. She says her attitude is informed by the tremendous feeling of humility she has toward her students and the sacrifices they make.
“Think of the huge challenges they face,” Brothers says. “Perhaps they’re new Canadians with Ph.D.s who have to start from the bottom up. I’m always encouraging people to investigate re-certification programs to get their existing credentials recognized. Think of the single mom who’s just picked up her kid from daycare and now has to focus in class. Or the guy who came off a fourteen-hour shift and is spending three hours in my class instead of sleeping before his second fourteen-hour shift.”
Brothers’ personal goals in education are to create a positive learning environment in the classroom and to provide career counselling for continuing education students.