Teaching Excellence recipient lives for ‘the click’

There is a recurring moment in teaching that Shauna Pomerantz lives for — and it never gets old.

“I love watching students get stuff, the eureka moments when something starts to make sense — I live for that ‘click,’” says the Professor in Brock’s Department of Child and Youth Studies (CHYS). “My goal is to stay current in socio-cultural theories and youth cultures so I can help facilitate those clicks as much as possible.”

Pomerantz, a widely recognized expert on girlhood studies and youth culture, was honoured as the recipient of the 2022 Faculty of Social Sciences Award for Excellence in Teaching during Brock’s Spring Convocation on Tuesday, June 14. The weeklong celebration, which will see more than 3,500 graduands cross the stage, continues until Friday, June 17.

Pomerantz says her classes are often focused on social justice issues, with discussion topics ranging from gender identity to the racialization of young immigrants, from age-based power dynamics to queer representation in pop culture. She weaves together these issues and theories with music videos, social media phenomena and embarrassing personal stories to engage students and help them find a way into challenging material.

“Teaching is an extraordinary opportunity to know people, engage in meaningful conversation, and participate in a community of learners,” she says. “Teaching is about affecting people and being affected by them.”

Pomerantz is a self-described “keener” and believes her students know that she isn’t faking her enthusiasm. Her dynamic blend of broad expertise with personal anecdotes and pop culture examples evidently resonates.

“When I heard that I won this award, I knew that my love of teaching could be felt by others, and that was rewarding and meaningful,” she says. “I was also so grateful to the CHYS faculty who nominated me and the many students who wrote all those incredible details about their classroom experiences, because reading the letters made me feel like a winner, whether I received the award or not.”

Pomerantz completed a Bachelor of Education with aspirations to teach high school English before beginning her journey to becoming a Professor of Child and Youth Studies.

“I was really interested in what teenagers had to say about the world and how they expressed themselves in verbal and written forms,” she says. “Not much has changed for me as a university instructor — the students are older, but I’m still chasing great conversations and rigorous analysis.”

Pomerantz says she has learned and continues to learn from her colleagues in the Department of Child and Youth Studies, both those who invited her to observe their teaching when she first came to Brock in 2006 and now her newer colleagues who have fresh perspectives and ideas because, in her view, the possibilities for teaching better are endless.

“There are always fresher ways to present material, and I know I will continue to re-work lectures each and every time to see if there is a stronger way to say it or a more current connection to pop culture,” she says. “I suppose the constant testing of teaching strategies is my biggest challenge but it’s also my greatest fun, because I want to be improving, learning, reading and thinking along with the students.”

A big part of the thrill of teaching is the spontaneity of a live class, which Pomerantz describes as offering transformative possibilities.

“My vision for a class can easily shift based on the students’ energy and the questions they raise, because that liveness cannot be anticipated or duplicated,” she says. “No matter how many times I’ve taught a topic, I’m always different, the material always changes and the interconnection between the students, the readings, the ideas and me always offers a new experience, moments that can only happen when we are assembled to think with each other and puzzle out challenging ideas.”

She encourages students and graduates completing their time at Brock this week not to cling to one “singular vision” of themselves.

“You are multi-faceted, shifting and fluid,” she says. “Do what makes you feel good and helps you grow as a person, and know that you can always change and be different. Stay open to possibilities you have never even imagined.” 

Ingrid Makus, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, says Pomerantz’s deep commitment to students’ learning, success and well-being exemplify the values of the Faculty of Social Sciences.

“Dr. Pomerantz’s energy and innovation in the classroom reflect her tireless commitment to students,” says Makus. “She is such an asset to her field — not only in her own excellent scholarship, but in her ability to cultivate enthusiasm and curiosity in her students — the next generation of scholars in Child and Youth Studies.”

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