Professor Claire Houston recognized for teaching excellence

June 04, 2024

Professor Claire Houston

Professor Claire Houston’s teaching philosophy is rooted in a sense of responsibility.

“As a law teacher, I approach my role with a deep commitment to students, the legal profession and society,” said Houston. “My primary responsibility as a law teacher is to my students. This responsibility informs my work both inside and outside the classroom.”

According to students and colleagues, her actions suit her words. For exemplary dedication to student development, Houston was named the recipient of Western Law’s 2024 Award for Teaching Excellence.

“Professor Houston is known for her dedication to innovative classroom teaching and her staunch commitment to mentoring her students,” said Associate Professor and Associate Dean, Research and Graduate Studies, Zoë Sinel. “She is deeply invested in providing students with equal opportunities to learn and engage with the subjects she teaches, while also tirelessly promoting their professional development.”

Of her teaching style, student referees explain that Houston cultivates accessibility and inclusion in the classroom. She adapts lessons and evaluations to student learning styles, employing a wide range of teaching methods, including lectures, discussion, worksheets, structured debates, and small group and partner activities like writing imaginary judicial decisions.

“Professor Houston has been instrumental in fostering an environment of inclusivity and intellectual growth within Western Law. She creates a psychologically safe learning environment that encourages active participation and builds a sense of community among students,” said one student referee.

“Her innovative teaching methods, and compassionate leadership have left an undeniable mark on all who have had the privilege of being her students. She is more than a professor; she is a mentor, a leader, and a relentless advocate for equity and justice within our academic community.”

Multiple students also expressed their appreciation for Houston’s commitment to mentorship and aiding professional development beyond the classroom.

“What truly sets Professor Houston apart as an educator is her unwavering dedication to student mentorship. She goes above and beyond to provide students guidance and support, both academically and professionally,” said another student referee. “Her genuine interest in her students’ success and development fosters a palpable sense of trust and camaraderie.”

Houston’s ability to create a supportive and inclusive learning environment is coupled with her ability to encourage students to carry this perspective forward into their careers. She aims to foster an understanding of intersectional discrimination and encourage a critical analysis of power in the legal system.

“Professor Houston has an uncanny ability to get her students to see why issues matter and how they fit within a larger context,” said a third student referee. “She was careful to develop our appreciation of the fact that the cases we study involve real people facing real problems. She was particularly thoughtful when it came to discussing how these issues in family law impact especially vulnerable groups.”

Houston joined Western Law in 2018. She researches and teaches primarily in family law and children’s law. She is co-editor (with Mary-Jo Maur and Nicholas Bala) of the casebook Family Law: Text, Cases, Materials & Notes, 10th Edition.

The Award for Teaching Excellence acknowledges the outstanding efforts of full-time faculty in fostering the academic and professional development of students. The criteria for selection include course design, classroom teaching, innovative course delivery and assessment methods, student mentorship, and educational leadership.