Outstanding educators lauded at virtual gathering

After leading classes in circumstances that were unimaginable to many only two years ago, Brock educators were honoured for their teaching excellence at a virtual event last week.

The annual Tribute to Teaching was hosted by Brock’s Centre for Pedagogical Innovation (CPI) on Wednesday, Dec. 8.

Madelyn Law, Brock’s Associate Vice-Provost, Teaching and Learning, welcomed attendees and said this year’s award recipients deserved extra commendation.

Although teaching and learning awards are always important, I believe that this year is special, given that these individuals are receiving awards at a time where they have had to innovate and try new things in a time of uncertainty,” she said.

Prior to the presentation of awards, participants heard from Associate Professor of Educational Studies Leanne Taylor, who received Brock’s Award for Distinguished Teaching earlier this year. She delivered a keynote address that spoke about her own experiences teaching as well as the long-lasting impact educators can have.

Taylor said the event provided an invaluable space for educators, students and others in the Brock community to come together to celebrate and build a collaborative teaching community while maintaining a key focus.

“Most of all, these spaces reaffirm that at the centre of all we do is a deep respect, care and compassion for our students,” she said.

Once the award presentation began, similar sentiments of student-centred gratitude were expressed by the other recipients.

Valerie Michaelson, Assistant Professor of Health Sciences and recipient of the Award for Excellence in Teaching for Early Career Faculty, said the collaborative spirit of teaching encouraged her to think deeply about receiving an individual award.

“I am very aware of the irony of receiving an individual teaching award because if I have ever experienced anything to be collaborative, it is teaching. It is nearly entirely dependent on the wisdom and generosity of others in sharing ideas, resources, conversations and even games,” she said. “But, I’m really honoured to receive this. If my students were reading this, I would want them to know how much their tenacious and critical engagement with issues of social justice and health equity has taught me, and how much it has shaped and inspired me as a teacher.”

Kate Cassidy, Adjunct Professor within Brock’s Department of Communication, Popular Culture and Film, and recipient of the Clarke Thomson Award for Excellence in Sessional Teaching, said she also drew inspiration from those in her classes.

“It is so energizing to stand alongside learners as they grapple with new knowledge and think about where it can take them,” she said. “It truly is an honour and so rewarding to be part of that journey with students.”

Like her fellow award recipients, Cassidy emphasized the support she has felt for her teaching from units across campus.

“I feel very lucky to be surrounded by colleagues who support me and are always interested in having a conversation about pedagogy,” she said. “Experiential learning is a big part of my teaching practice, so I feel very fortunate to be supported in that by the Co-op, Career and Experiential Education department. I am also very grateful for all the skilled and kind people in the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation who are always there to help — particularly in the last few terms that have been primarily online.”

Normally, the Don Ursino Award for Excellence in Teaching of Large Classes is also presented at the Tribute to Teaching event; however, CPI has elected to postpone that presentation until the new year to allow more applicants to submit their dossiers.

While looking forward to the presentation of the Teaching of Large Classes award later this winter and congratulating those who had collected awards, Law emphasized the importance of teaching at Brock and the commitment of those who excel at it.

“Teaching and learning is at the core of our academic mission, and it is a pleasure and privilege to present awards to faculty and instructors for their exceptional work that helps Brock achieve a transformational academic experience,” she said. “These instructors continue to ensure their teaching is led by important core values of inclusion, student engagement and innovation, and are true leaders at Brock.”

To learn more about the Tribute to Teaching and Brock-wide teaching awards, visit the CPI website.

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