York professor awarded prestigious national teaching fellowship

York University Professor Janice Newton (right) has been awarded a 2005 3M Teaching Fellowship for excellence in postsecondary education. Newton, a professor in the Political Science Department and the School of Women’s Studies, is also the undergraduate program director for political science. A graduate of York University, Newton has an MA and a PhD from York. She has been teaching at York since 1995.

In the nomination document for the prestigious, nationally-judged fellowship, Newton’s colleagues and students praised her commitment to excellence in education. “I see myself as a strong, smart, and independent woman, and I know that you and your class played a crucial role in me finding my way to such a good place,” wrote Gina Sinclair (BA Hons. ‘90), one the many students that Newton has touched with her teaching.

Her nominator, Professor David McNally, Chair of York’s Political Science Department, described his colleague in this way: “In 22 years as a faculty member at York, I have not met another individual who cares as deeply as does Professor Newton about the quality of the classroom learning experience. This has in large measure to do with the way she approaches teaching as a learner.

“Professor Newton concentrates quite explicitly on the development of skills at research, writing, argument and critical reading,” wrote McNally. “She has been regularly nominated for University and external teaching awards by students who have come away from her classes with an overwhelming respect for her skills and dedication as a teacher.”

According to McNally, Newton is constantly searching for ways to improve the learning experiences of her students and develop the skills that they will use in their lives after university. She has innovated in a variety of ways, creating journal assignments, one-minute tests, pre-writing assignments, collaborative projects, and new modes of classroom assessment. At both the undergraduate and graduate levels, she teaches the politics of the Canadian women’s movement; Canadian public policy; women and politics; and university teaching and learning .

Her colleagues describe her as a model of leadership through of her work on reforming curriculum, speaking on academic integrity issues, and serving as the undergraduate program director for the Department of Political Science. Most notably, she was instrumental in the establishment of York ‘s outstanding School of Women’s Studies in 1997. Her co-edited text, Voices from the Classroom: Reflections on Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (Garamond Press, 2001), continues to be a source of inspiration for university teachers. Newton is also the author of The Feminist Challenge to the Canadian Left, 1900-1918 (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1995). Her manual Teaching Critical Skills: A Manual for Course Instructors (Wilfred Laurier Press, 1992) has shaped attention to critical skills in the university teaching process.

“Professor Newton is most deserving, not only for her innovative approaches to teaching in the classroom, but also for the outstanding leadership she has provided to women’s studies and political science curriculum and programming here at York. A long-time member of the Women’s Studies program in the Faculty of Arts, Professor Newton was instrumental in creating York’s pan-faculty School of Women’s Studies in 1997,” wrote Kate McPherson, Chair of the School of Women’s Studies. “Indeed, she served as the first Chair of the school and continues to be an important contributor to our programs. Most recently, Professor Newton created a new women’s studies graduate course – our Feminist Research Colloquium – in which students as a group explore the wide range of interdisciplinary approaches possible within feminist research and, through rigorous feedback from their colleagues in the course, craft their own research proposals.”

Speaking on behalf of the Faculty of Arts, Associate Dean Irmgard Steinisch said: “Her collegiality and high standards, as well as her selfless service to students has inspired many of her colleagues to become better teachers. We all would like students to compliment us with such comments as ‘If I am in graduate school today, it is because of Janice Newton’.

“The 3M award recognizes her strong influence on the teaching culture in the Faculty of Arts, and her receiving this prestigious award honours not only her but also the Faculty of Arts at large and the Political Science Department in particular. It also demonstrates that we here in the Faculty of Arts place the highest value on teaching excellence and love to celebrate teaching and our best teachers,” said Steinisch.

More about the 3M Teaching Fellowship

3M Canada began collaborating with the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education in 1986 with the creation of the 3M Teaching Fellowships. These awards recognize teaching excellence as well as educational leadership.

Up to 10 fellowships are awarded each year. The award includes a citation and an invitation to participate in a three-day retreat at Chateau Montebello in Quebec. This retreat provides the winners with an opportunity to share past teaching experiences and discuss new ideas.

There are now 192 3M Teaching Fellows scattered throughout Canada representing a broad range of academic disciplines. They work individually and collaboratively to enhance teaching and learning at their own institutions and through larger collaborative initiatives supported by the society.