Four to be honoured with teaching awards at Spring Convocation

Four exceptional faculty members will be presented with teaching awards during York University’s Spring Convocation ceremonies.

The recipients have demonstrated exceptional and innovative teaching methods will be honoured with the annual President’s University-Wide Teaching Awards.

Award recipients Sabina Mirza, Andrea Davis, Alex Czekanski and Véronique Tomaszewski were selected by the Senate Committee on Awards for their significant contribution to enhancing the quality of learning for York students.

“These recipients exemplify the qualities of teaching excellence and innovation that have established York as a leader in 21st-century postsecondary education,” said York University President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri. “On behalf of the University, I congratulate them on this achievement, and thank them for their commitment to enhancing student learning at York.”

Each award winner will receive $3,000 and will have their names engraved on the President’s University-Wide Teaching Awards plaque in Vari Hall.

Sabina Mirza

Sabina Mirza

Sabina Mirza, a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Education who is a teaching assistant in the Sociology Program in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, will receive the President’s University-Wide Teaching Award in the Teaching Assistant category.

Nominated by students in the Interdisciplinary Approaches to Social Inquiry (SOSC 2000) and Families and Social Change (SOCI 3660) courses, Mirza is described as being a caring, meticulously organized and devoutly diligent instructor. The classroom environment created by Mirza is said to be a warm and welcoming environment where learning is exchanged rather than dictated and where equity and respect are practiced.

“Sabina is not just consistently well prepared; she is attentive to issues of emotional safety in the classroom – so much so, that event the quietest students who were initially too shy to speak mentioned how excited they were, come end of term, to engage in tutorial sessions,” writes one of her nominators.

Andrea Davis

Andrea Davis

Professor Andrea Davis is chair of the Department of Humanities in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. Davis is the recipient of the President’s University-Wide Teaching Award in the Full-Time Senior Faculty category.

She is also the 2012 recipient of the Ian Greene Award for teaching excellence and former interim director of the Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC). Her nominators describe her as a gifted and dedicated educator who commands great respect and admiration. “Dr. Andrea Davis is the epitome of an educator who works for the sake of teaching, and not vice versa. Her definition of teaching, one that consists of humility, passion, and altruism, becomes instantly transparent to all students for whom she serves as an educator, mentor, and model of black female professionalism,” writes one nominator.

“Professor Davis has contributed significantly to developing an innovative curriculum at York. She has mounted new courses in Black Literature and Black Women’s Writing that respond to York’s diverse student body, and is currently developing a new Certificate Program in Black Canadian Studies,” writes another colleague. “As a participant on teaching committees, coordinator of an interdisciplinary program, director of a research centre and graduate diploma program and, currently, chair of humanities, she has worked for collegial consensus and led new curriculum implementation initiatives.”

Alex Czekanski

Alex Czekanski

Lassonde School of Engineering Professor Alex Czekanski will receive the President’s University-Wide Teaching Award in the Full-Time Faculty category.

His nominators praise his work to build communities both inside and outside the Lassonde School of Engineering, his focus on student success and his efforts in creating innovative experiential learning opportunities. “Professor Czekanski is aware that we enter our programs with varying amounts of prior knowledge and he works to bridge the gaps. He offers things like workshops that help bring us up to the same knowledge base of our peers,” writes one of his many student nominators. “Professor Czekanski keeps class interesting is by incorporating his industrial experience with in-class guest speakers. From the field of engineering, we met practicing professionals at Hatch, Pratt and Whitney Canada. From York, we’ve met with an intellectual property manager, successful entrepreneurs, and even York University President Shoukri. The guest speakers motivated us by a discussion of the diverse paths they took to reach their current roles and what it could be like for us after graduation.”

Outside of his faculty-based activities, he builds bridges between Lassonde, other faculties and educational institutions. He was a part of the focus group working to redevelop Humber College’s Mechanical Engineering Education program. He is also very active building relationships with York’s Department of Design in the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design. Through this collaboration, he created an annual Interdisciplinary Lecture Series, which brings international educational experts to Lassonde.

Véronique Tomaszewski

Véronique Tomaszewski

Véronique Tomaszewski is a contract faculty member who teaches sociology at the Glendon campus. An alumna of York University, Tomaszewski will receive the President’s University-Wide Teaching Award in the Contract and Adjunct Faculty category.

Nominated by her students, Tomaszewski is known for empowering her students to think critically, to be congruent with their deep values and she encourages them to become socially engaged. Students comment that she listens and pays close attention to their needs and encourages them to pursue their path to self-discovery and empowerment. In the classroom, she strives to mirror the real world by analyzing case studies from current events and news. She also makes an extensive use of social media. Her Moodle course sites, for example, blend with students’ reality and their increasing participation and expansion of social media.

“The impact that she has left will last long after I graduate,” writes one of her student nominators. “Véronique has exemplified the virtues and wisdom that my class would all like to embody as we enter the next stage of our identity development, and into our various postsecondary pursuits. We plan to bring the lessons of mindfulness and self-reflection that we learned during the duration of her class into our future endeavours.”

The purpose of the President’s University-Wide Teaching Awards is to provide significant recognition for excellence in teaching, to encourage its pursuit, to publicize such excellence when achieved across the University and in the wider community, and to promote informed discussion of teaching and its improvement. The awards demonstrate the value York University attaches to teaching.

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