Four win University-Wide Teaching Awards

Put them on a pedestel and clap. They are four of York’s great instructors, impeccable scholars whose passion for their subject is infectious, who engage and inspire students in the classroom and go the extra mile when students ask for guidance. They are Professors Allan Hutchinson and Fahim Quadir, contract faculty member Diane Zorn and teaching assistant Irena Knezevic and they have won this year’s University-Wide Teaching Awards.

The Senate Committee on Teaching and Learning (SCOTL), which selects the winners, announced this year’s quartet at the March 22 Senate meeting. The four will be recognized at convocation ceremonies in June and their names will be engraved on plaques in Vari Hall.

Sponsored by the York Parents’ Association, the annual awards recognize and aim to encourage the pursuit of teaching excellence. They also demonstrate the value York University attaches to teaching. The awards are presented to individuals for each of the following groups: senior full-time faculty; full-time faculty at York fewer than 10 years; contract faculty; and teaching assistants.

Allan Hutchinson
Senior full-time faculty member

When it comes to teaching, this is Allan Hutchinson’s year. The Osgoode Hall Law School professor made TVO’s top 10 shortlist of finalists in the "Big Ideas" Best Lecturer Competition. And now, York is recognizing his talent in the classroom. (See his award-winning style on TVO‘s video.)

Right: Allan Hutchinson

Hutchinson joined Osgoode’s faculty in 1982. Internationally renowned as a legal theorist, the British born and educated professor favours a democratic critique of law and politics. He teaches torts, constitutional law, jurisprudence, and civil procedure, and was recently appointed a distinguished research professor at York (see YFile July 14, 2006) and made a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He has publishing articles in almost all of the world’s prestigious law journals, and written and edited over 15 books, including, It’s All In The Game: A Non-Foundationalist Account of Law and Adjudication, If Plato Had Played Football: Playing a Different Game of Philosophy and Life, and a guide to succeeding at law school.

Law student Roman Podolny nominated Hutchinson for the University-Wide Teaching Award. Hutchinson "possesses a unique teaching style, which combines presentational ability of a stage actor with the depth of a philosopher," wrote Podolny. "Ever sensitive to the variety of viewpoints in the class, Hutchinson guides his students to reconsider their preconceived notions of what the law is and, more importantly, what it should be. This hands-on approach to teaching is not only a powerful pedagogical tool; it reflects Hutchinson’s belief that law school should produce professionals who engage with the law."

Hutchinson is associate dean of research, graduate studies and external relations at Osgoode and a member of York’s Board of Governors. He has been Chair of York’s Senate and involved in curricular and admissions reform. His "engagement in the University governance is an extension of his commitment to justice, equity and democratization of knowledge," wrote Podolny, who added that Hutchinson is a committed mentor.

Fahim Quadir
Full-time professor at York for fewer than 10 years

Fahim Quadir joined the Division of Social Science in the Faculty of Arts in 2001. As coordinator of International Development Studies, he has developed an array of new courses at the undergraduate level and played a leading role in creating a graduate program, to start in September.

Right: Fahim Quadir

Before coming to York, he taught political science and global studies at various universities in Canada, the United States and Bangladesh and worked on several large-scale development and research projects in Canada and Bangladesh. His research interests range from democracy and civil society to regionalism and globalization, topics about which he has written in academic journals.

In her nomination letter, fellow social scientist Anne MacLennan says Quadir’s "personal touch and interaction with each of the students in his class leaves a lasting impression. His teaching combines theory and praxis to give the students a very strong sense of the experiential. At the very core of the subject matters are issues of race and gender. Quadir is not only sensitive to diversity but broadens knowledge by creating a structure in which the subjects may be comfortably and intelligently explored. Clearly student and colleague comments share the view that Quadir empowers his student to venture beyond traditional scholarship to seek links to their studies and policy-making. It is in the practical application of their knowledge that students realize the global impact of development studies."

Diane Zorn
Contract faculty

A pioneer in the use of technology as a teaching tool, Diane Zorn has been nominated for several teaching awards during this academic year. Just about to complete her PhD in the philosophy of education at the Ontario Institute for the Study of Education, Zorn is a course director in the Philosophy Program in the School of Arts & Letters in the Atkinson Faculty of LIberal & Professional Studies and has been teaching at York for about a decade.

Right: Diane Zorn

Zorn is a "superb teacher and a leader in education," wrote Jean Saindon, a philosophy professor in the School of Arts & Letters, in her nomination letter. "She brings to the classroom not only an excellent knowledge of her material, but an enthusiasm for learning and an approach that motivates her students not just to do well, but to want to learn."

"Her groundbreaking use of teaching technologies has become a model for what online learning can be," says Saindon. Zorn’s Modes of Reasoning course is the first fully online course at York and only the second course in Canada to provide video podcast lectures, or learning on the go, and has received widespread media coverage. (See CFTO news clip about Zorn’s podcasting.) "Her approach to online education allows students to customize their learning and learn on the go in reciprocally evolving and adaptive learning environments."

Last year, Zorn was nominated for the Council of Ontario Universities Teaching with Technology award for the course along with her colleague Kelly Parke, a multimedia designer for York’s Computing & Network Services. This year, she has won York’s University-Wide Teaching Award and will find out soon whether she has won the Atkinson’s Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and 2007 Ontario Research And Innovation Optical Network Award for innovative use of advanced networks and collaborative technologies.

For the past 10 years, Zorn has also shared her boundless energy giving popular workshops on the imposter phenomenon (see YFile Nov. 29, 2005) and handling conflict in the classroom at York’s Centre for the Support of Teaching. And she is generously shares her teaching resources with colleagues, coaches teaching assistants and mentors both colleagues and students, who consistently give her glowing evaluations.

Irena Knezevic
Teaching assistant

Irena Knezevic is a doctoral student in the joint York-Ryerson Communication & Culture Program and a teaching assistant in the Advertising & Society course offered in York’s Division of Social Science in the Faculty of Arts.

Left: Irena Knezevic

After earning a BA in psychology and an MA in communication and social justice from the University of Windsor, she is preparing her York dissertation on food and discourse, specifically changes in the Eastern European food systems resulting from the political and economic transformations since the early 1990s.

Nominator Anne MacLennan, who teaches the Advertising & Society course, says Knezevic is a "positive presence" who "brings many talents to the task." Students in the course "frequently comment on her preparedness, ability, supportiveness and availability," writes MacLennan.

Knezevic "is particularly sensitive to the needs of English-as-a-second-language students since she arrived as an immigrant from the former Yugoslavia just prior to beginning university in Canada," writes MacLennan. "She goes out of ther way to try to devise strategies for ESL students to cope with their studies. And she makes herself available in a variety of ways outside the tutorial, after lectures, during office hours and through WebCT."

For the benefit of other teaching assistants, Knezevic also prepared a presentation with another teaching assistant about how to use the WebCT not just as an administrative tool but to create a greater sense of community among students and instructors in the course. This year, she has started to explore new aspects of WebCT, continuing to challenge herself as a teaching assistant, writes MacLennan.

A mentor to undergraduate and graduate students, Knezevic "commitment to the academic success of her students is what makes her stand above most tutorial leaders," commented one student. In addition to her talent for teaching and desire to teach, Knezevic’s "active participation in research and conferences provide yet another dimension to her teaching that broadens the experience for her students," writes MacLennan.