After an academic year of teaching unlike any other, Brock’s Centre for Pedagogical Innovation (CPI) is virtually celebrating the accomplishments of instructors and teaching assistants.
With the University’s annual Tribute to Teaching and TA awards events unable to take place in person due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, profiles of the award winners have been uploaded virtually to the CPI Awards Showcase website along with a virtual keynote address from the 2020 Distinguished Teaching Award recipient, Professor of Marketing Kai-Yu Wang.
Among those recognized was Economics Teaching Assistant Zain Virani (MBE ’19), who received this year’s TA Award. The honour is presented annually to a teaching assistant in recognition of an outstanding contribution to teaching and learning at Brock.
Virani, who has worked as a TA at Brock since 2017 and graduated from the University with a Master of Business Economics in 2019, said he could not have enhanced his own teaching without the help of the CPI team.
“CPI has helped me appreciate the importance of reflecting on and constantly improving my practices as an educator,” he said. “I have learned to accept and incorporate student feedback into my teaching, which has enabled me to improve the quality of learning experience that I am able to offer to my students.”
Though winners of the awards received monetary prizes, Virani said the greatest reward is seeing his students succeed.
“We need to let our students know, with our tone and actions, that we genuinely care about their learning,” he said. “I have noticed that when students feel valued and taken care of, they enjoy learning and consequently perform better.”
Neivin Shalabi, a Higher Education Sessional Instructor with a PhD from the University of Denver and almost 17 years of higher education teaching experience, also keeps her students’ needs as a top priority.
“I put my heart and soul into my teaching, aiming to build inclusive learning environments where my students are welcomed, appreciated, supported and challenged to become their best selves,” she said.
Shalabi is the recipient of Brock’s 2020 Clarke Thomson Award for Excellence in Sessional Teaching, which honours part-time/sessional teaching staff who contribute significantly to student learning at the University.
Shalabi’s teaching practices are informed by her years of work as an educator and pedagogical trainer, and by participation in a wide array of professional development activities, including workshops led by CPI.
“My participation in CPI’s Instructional Skills and Facilitator Development workshops helped fulfil some of my professional development goals,” she said. “My communication with the technical support staff helped establish seamless virtual learning environments for my students.”
While both Virani and Shalabi have received individual honours, each believes they are among elite company as part of Brock’s teaching and learning community.
“From participating in TA workshops organized by CPI, I have come to the realization that Brock has some outstanding TAs who truly care about their students’ learning,” said Virani. “I’m absolutely thrilled and humbled to have been chosen for the TA Award out of this pool of amazing educators.”
Shalabi was also thankful and encouraged all instructors to continue to deliver excellent teaching.
“I urge fellow educators to inform their teaching practices with students’ feedback and to engage in ongoing professional development activities,” she said.
CPI’s Assistant Director Giulia Forsythe said the awards highlight just a small sample of the amazing teaching taking place in every Faculty at Brock, even despite the difficulties created by the pandemic.
“I wish I could give an honorary teaching award to all the amazing instructors, teaching assistants and lab demonstrators at Brock University after these extremely challenging past 14 months,” she said. “While many people are deserving, the teaching award winners stand out because they demonstrated their excellence through their impressive dossiers and numerous letters of recommendations and support. I feel this is a testament to the high-quality teaching and learning that happens at Brock, even in the most trying circumstances.”
A full list of Brock-wide teaching award winners, teaching assistant award winners and the Distinguished Teaching Award winner can be found below and on the Awards Showcase 2020-21 website.
Brock-wide teaching awards
- 2020 Clarke Thomson Award for Excellence in Sessional Teaching — Neivin Shalabi, Education
- 2020 Excellence in Teaching for Early Career Faculty Award — Liz Clarke, Communication, Popular Culture and Film
- 2020 Don Ursino Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Large Classes — Poling Bork, Computer Science
Teaching assistant awards
- 2021 TA Award — Zain Virani, Economics
- 2021 International TA Award — Esther Wainaina, Education
- 2021 Graduate TA Award —Ehsan Nayeri, Goodman School of Business
- 2021 Novice TA Award — Felisia Milana, Political Science
Distinguished Teaching Award