Professor teaches and mentors dental hygienists in communities across Alberta

Mentorship and role modeling key to success for 2013 W.W. Wood Award winner

FoMD Staff - 28 March 2013

Sharon ComptonSharon Compton's classroom is bigger than the university's largest lecture hall. The winner of the 2013 W.W. Wood Award for excellence in dental education teaches and mentors dental hygiene students in communities across Alberta through online distance learning. These students are practising dental hygienists who are completing their degrees while working in communities like Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Olds, Airdrie and other smaller centres.

Compton, who is associate chair and director of Dental Hygiene in the U of A's Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, has recently shifted her teaching away from the classroom to distance delivery.

"It's a very different way of educating," she notes. "This method of teaching can be challenging to make connections with the students online. "But I believe that through consistent and frequent online interactions, providing pertinent feedback as students progress through the course, connection can be achieved."

The Association of Canadian Faculties of Dentistry (ACFD) clearly agrees. The AFCD W.W. Wood Award commemorates Bill Wood, whose academic career exemplified dedication to research, teaching and service. The award is given annually to one faculty member at each Canadian dentistry faculty.

"Sharon's immense work and guidance in the dental hygiene program goes far beyond our department," says Carlos Flores-Mir, associate professor and head of the Division of Orthodontics. "She's raised the profile of the program through her leadership, teaching and incredible commitment to foster dedicated professionals."

Compton began her teaching career in 1984 as a clinical instructor in the dental hygiene program. In July of 1990, she accepted a full-time tenure stream academic appointment. Her teaching responsibilities included senior clinical coordination and teaching, ethics and professional practice, and medical emergencies.

In 1996, Compton decided to pursue a PhD program while teaching part time. After completing her PhD in 2002, she accepted the position of director of the dental hygiene program in September 2002, a position she still holds today, along with the role of associate chair, dental hygiene.

"Dr. Compton has been a mentor for me, and more recently, I had the privilege of Dr. Compton supervising my master's degree," said Richelle Beesley, MSC, RDH. "She has encouraged me to reach high standards, and always inspired me throughout my research and academic journey."

"Sharon is a thoughtful educator," says Paul Major, chair of the School of Dentistry and, senior associate dean, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry. "She holds her students to a high level of superiority, and has a strong commitment to educational excellence."

"I want to instill in students, a deep sense of quality work and practice ethic and part of this development process begins with 'setting an example' through role modeling," says Compton in describing her teaching philosophy.

Compton's years of teaching and her ability to set a superb example for her students set her work apart from 'average' teaching both online and in more traditional classroom settings.