Instructor Profile: Janice Pulley

Recipient of the 2016 UBC Continuing Studies John K. Friesen Excellence in Teaching Award.

When Jack Edward Pulley graduated from the UBC Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences in 1951, he was among the many veterans UBC welcomed after the Second World War in their transition back to civilian life.

Janice Pulley speaks fondly of her late father, and of UBC. It was UBC that gave him the opportunity to transform his life after the war, where Janice pursued her undergraduate and master's degrees, and where she has taught English and writing for the past 27 years.

Janice's teaching career came about almost by accident. When she started her master's program in the UBC English Department in 1986, she applied to be an English 100 teaching assistant. Although she was not chosen in the first round, Janice was given the job after one of the applicants suddenly dropped out. She had less than two weeks to prepare. "I was 22 years old and had never taught before. I was terrified," she admits.

Over her career, Janice has developed an engaging, gentle, and what she describes as persistent, teaching style that has won her accolades from her students and peers alike. "The first rule of education, to me, is 'Do no harm.' The professors I respected the most were the ones who taught me what I needed to know, and didn’t break my spirit in the process."

She also talks about energy in her classes, Writing 098 and 099, offered through UBC Continuing Studies. "Education is a collective effort. By the end of the class, I want to have used my energy in a way that doesn’t impose. After a particularly good class where there's been a constant mutual exchange, I am simultaneously exhausted and exhilarated. I live for days like that. The challenge is to get there often and consistently."

"Education is a collective effort. By the end of the class, I want to have used my energy in a way that doesn't impose."

Some of her students are in her classes because of a failed test, or because they've been referred. "At times, I'll have students in my classes who can be slightly resentful, and resistant. I enjoy those kinds of students the most. They have a spark of defiance, as if to say 'Prove to me what you've got.' That's where it gets exciting for me."

Janice credits some of UBC's luminaries for her success: English instructors Jerry Wasserman and Judith Brown, former head of the UBC English Department Herbert Rosengarten, her graduate supervisor Sherrill Grace, and Writing Centre director Ramona Montagnes. "I was taught by award-winning people, great role models. I'm grateful that those around me recognized my potential and guided me on this path."

She continues, "As humans, we like to be of service. We all want to contribute in the way that our skills, talents, and inclinations lead us. I'm thrilled that others think I'm doing a good job. Maybe all of this isn't really an accident after all."

To Janice, UBC is a place of transformation. She draws parallels with her father's journey, and those of students who have found success by developing fundamental English and writing skills. When teaching in classrooms in the older Point Grey buildings, Janice's thoughts often turn to Jack Pulley.

"I try to imagine my 28-year-old father on campus: whether he might have had a class in the old math building or in Hennings; what he might have been thinking; the sense of wonder and bewilderment he must have felt at finding himself in such a peaceful, lighted place after the chaos and horror of the Second World War, with all the promise of a new world laid out before him.

"I feel that's a situation that many of my current students can relate to. I hope my father would be proud of me. I believe he would be."