2021 Clarke Thomson Excellence in Sessional Teaching Award Recipient – Kate Cassidy

Dr. Cassidy is described as a scholar and an instructor who has given a great deal of attention to supporting, stretching, and promoting memorable learning experiences. Kate teaches using a strongly developed teaching philosophy that is reflected in and influenced by her pedagogical practices. As a dedicated and passionate instructor, she consistently approaches her teaching following the three primary pillars – care, design, and experiences. Colleagues both within and outside of the department of Communication, Popular Culture, and Film describe Dr. Cassidy as an exemplary instructor and role model. “Her insatiable curiosity, creativity, and genuine care for others make her an outstanding educator and a truly remarkable individual.”

Dr. Cassidy’s dedication and commitment to her students extends beyond just their learning. According to one student, “everything from her lessons to her emails feel rooted in genuine care for for her students.” She is consistently described as an educator who cares deeply about supporting her students to excel and is described as an instructor who “truly wants her students to succeed.” Kate demonstrates an impressive balance between caring and accommodating her students unique perspectives and needs whilst maintaining high standards and rigor in her teaching. As one student reflected, “Dr. Cassidy effectively took what is the most stressful part of university (receiving marks) and turned it into a valuable and fulfilling learning experience,”, while another commented on her willingness to “provide students with clear, detailed and constructive feedback which allows students to self-reflect and improve inside and outside of the classroom.” Additionally, describing herself as a ‘mentor’, Kate ensures that her commitment to her students does not stop at the boundaries of her syllabus; students and alumni consistently remark at the attention and support they have received from Dr. Cassidy as they explore and embark upon their careers.

As an instructor, Dr. Cassidy has not only woven experiential learning approaches for her students into every course she teaches, but has taken the initiative to design and redesign courses to bolster students’ access to experiential learning opportunities. Her efforts not only reflect a depth of commitment to experiential learning but also demonstrate her understanding of the course of learning that students undertaken across their degree as she has worked to scaffold learning and prepare students for their culminating experiential learning courses. Her ability to intentionally construct learning at both the course and program level is perhaps based in Dr. Cassidy’s postsecondary training as an artist – “I was taught to go back and forth between laying out the broadest shapes and filling in the most intricate detail.”  According to colleagues in her department the experiential courses that Kate teaches are “what attracts students to [the] programs, and Kate’s reputation within the course is what keeps them here to complete the fourth year.”  Additionally, Kate has successfully received grants to research, redesign, and develop new experiential courses for the department of Communication, Popular Culture and Film in the Faculty of Social Sciences, including recent grant funding which has enabled her to design new courses which partner with the 2021 Canada Summer Games to enable students and the community to mutually benefit.  Ensuring that her teaching strategies are rooted in reflective practice to support students in developing critical and metacognitive thinking skills is a defining feature of Dr. Cassidy’s approach to experiential education. Indeed, Kate designed her own research-based reflection framework based upon UNESCO’s Four Pillars of Learning which became the central feature of the department’s capstone experiential internship course.

Dr. Cassidy is described by students and colleagues alike as a role model for educators at Brock. “Kate is a gifted educator, dedicated scholar-practitioner, inspirational leader, and innovative entrepreneur.”