Excellence in Teaching: Gail Fisher

Each year, UIC honors some of its most dedicated and outstanding teachers with the Award for Excellence in Teaching. The winners, who receive a $5,000 salary increase, are selected by past recipients of the award from nominations made by departments and colleges.

Gail Fisher
Gail Fisher, clinical professor of occupational therapy

Years at UIC: 31

What does it mean to win an Excellence in Teaching Award?
I love to teach, and being selected by the college and campus for this prestigious award is one of the highlights of my faculty career. As a clinical faculty member, I know that non-tenure system faculty carry a lot of the teaching responsibilities across campus, and it feels good to be recognized by my faculty colleagues.

What do you teach?
I teach occupational therapy theories, and in my other course, I teach about how the health care “non-system” and payment policies affect access to care and occupational therapy.

How do you engage students in your courses?
I have learned from my students that they learn best when provided with real-life examples and cases to discuss. In my theory course, I bring in clinicians to talk about how they use theories in practice, and they each bring a video case for the students to analyze. In the health care systems course, we have mini-debates on current issues and controversies, and the students engage in an advocacy action to improve access to occupational therapy.

What do you enjoy most about teaching at UIC?
I appreciate that I have always had opportunities to improve my teaching through trying new approaches, updating course content and adding new learning activities. I am tuned in to my students’ perceptions and enjoy witnessing the transformation that occurs when they realize that they are beginning to think like occupational therapists. Also, I enjoy running into former students and hearing their stories about how UIC prepared them well to do a job they love.

What are your research interests? 
I study policy and payment trends, and also how occupational therapists use theory in practice. I have been interested in both areas for my entire career at UIC and am glad I didn’t have to choose between them. 

What is your advice to students considering a teaching career?
Be prepared for long hours, but it will be worth the time and effort you invest because being able to influence the next generation is a privilege and powerful role.

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Campus, Faculty