President’s teaching award recipients inspire students

What distinguishes this year’s recipients of the annual President’s University-Wide Teaching Awards (UWTA), say their nominators, is their level of caring, their inclusiveness and their ability to engage and inspire students.

The recipients are chosen from four categories – full-time faculty with 10 or more years of teaching experience, full-time faculty with less than 10 years of experience, contract & adjunct faculty and teaching assistants – and are selected by the Senate Committee on Awards. They will each receive $3,000, have their names engraved on the President’s University-Wide Teaching Award plaques in Vari Hall and are recognized at the current Spring Convocation ceremonies.

“York University is incredibly fortunate to have some of Canada’s leading teachers who are committed to making a difference in the lives of our students, both in and out of the classroom,” said York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri. “The President’s University-Wide Teaching Awards provide us with the opportunity to honour and recognize our team who repeatedly go above and beyond for the benefit of our future leaders. I am extremely proud of our winners and wish them well as they continue to deliver academic excellence and student success.”

Tereza Barta A film professor in the Faculty of Fine Arts since 1995, Tereza Barta (left) is the recipient of the UWTA in the category for senior full-time faculty with 10 or more years of teaching experience. Barta has extensive experience as a director, writer, researcher and editor, having worked on more than 25 documentaries, a feature film and several television productions. She has worked as a writer and director at the Romanian National Film Board in Bucharest for 12 years, followed by stints at the Austrian Film Board and CBC Radio Canada in Montreal. Her films have been screened at international festivals, such as Bilbao (Spain), Leipzig and Oberhausen (Germany), Bucharest, Chicago and Montreal, and she has won international and national awards, including a Gemini in 1994 for her documentary Chez nous, c’est nous ici.

Alumnus and filmmaker Matthew Miller (BFA Spec. Hons. ’03), who is currently teaching a course in the York/Sheridan Joint Program in Design, nominated Barta. He says, “Her level of caring for her students is unparalleled.” Her door is always open. She is compassionate, encouraging and understanding. “She will always check up on you and expect the best of you. She will challenge you to dig deeper, to be true to yourself and to think of the big picture and the world at large. In the eight years that have passed since I graduated, Tereza has continued to be my most important teacher, mentor, collaborator and friend.”

For Barta, teaching is something she loves to do. “The more I teach, the more I want to teach. The challenge of forever assessing and trying to constructively influence my students’ work informs my own film work. The interchange of ideas has a lasting impact on their filmmaking, but it also has a lasting impact on mine. If the last fourteen years of teaching at York were part of a film, my students would be co-creators and participants, not spectators in the audience,” said Barta of her approach to teaching.

Alice MacLachlanPhilosophy Professor Alice MacLachlan (right) in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) is the recipient of the UWTA in the full-time category for faculty with less than 10 years of teaching experience. Last year, she was a nominee for the Ian Greene Award for Teaching Excellence and has received a faculty merit award for three consecutive years. She is the coordinator for the Certificate in Practical Ethics and the Certificate in Professional Ethics.

Neil Britto, an undergraduate student in administrative studies who nominated MacLachlan, wrote: “The clearest evidence of Professor MacLachlan’s thoughtful teaching methods is seen in her lecture style, which is characterized by a conscious dynamic that lends itself to critical conversation in perfectly timed spaces in between progressions of content.” He noted overhearing many students talking about how “resonating” her lectures were and that she managed to earn “the respect, confidence and trust of the entire class in less than a couple of weeks,” as well as inspire and engage the students.

MacLachlan’s work focuses on ethical theory, especially feminist ethics, virtue ethics and the role of moral emotions, and in social and political philosophy. Her current research topics include forgiveness, reconciliation, reparation and apology.

“I believe that philosophical teaching, at its best, helps students to develop a deeper understanding of their place in the world and that, at the same time, it encourages them to develop the clarity of thinking and precision of expression necessary to communicate this understanding to others so that others will listen,” MacLachlan said in her philosophy of teaching statement. “If I do my job right, then learning philosophy can be inspiring, unsettling and ultimately, tremendously empowering. I try to keep this in mind as I teach.”

Eva KarpinskiEva Karpinski (left) (PhD ’03) of the School of Women’s Studies in LA&PS is the recipient of the UWTA in the contract and adjunct faculty category. She teaches courses on narrative, cultural studies, translation studies and feminist theory and methodology, and has published articles in such journals as Literature Compass, Men and Masculinities, Studies in Canadian Literature, Canadian Woman Studies and Atlantis. She is also editor of Pens of Many Colours: A Canadian Reader, a popular college anthology of multicultural writing. Her book Borrowed Tongues: Life Writing, Migration and Translation is forthcoming from Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

“From the first day you walk into her class, Dr. Karpinski sparks in her students an infectious enthusiasm for Women’s Studies,” said her award nominator Noël Corinne Smith, a master’s degree student in critical disability studies. “Her classes are always energetic and highly participatory, conducted in an atmosphere that permits students to establish truly meaningful relationships with one another, relationships that transcend the classroom.”

Karpinski also feels her time in the classroom is valuable. “Every time I walk out of the classroom, I feel I have enriched my self-understanding and gained new insight into the material. In this sense, education is truly a site of inquiry and creative transformation, not only for my students, but also for myself,” she wrote. “In all the courses that I have taught during my time at York, I have put the quality of students’ experience and their intellectual and personal growth as my priorities.”

Lee KuhnleDoctoral candidate in the Department of Social & Political Thought in LA&PS, Lee Kuhnle (right) (MA ’06), is the winner of the UWTA in the teaching assistant category. He has been teaching since 2005 and has taught courses in philosophy, technological epistemology and humanities. This is the second time he was nominated for a teaching award. In addition to teaching at York, Kuhnle has taught English as a second language in Germany, Taiwan and Toronto.

“My teaching strategies are informed by a fundamental presupposition about education: Learning is most effective when a genuine interest is allowed to flourish in a safe and positive environment. I believe, therefore, that it is my responsibility as a teaching assistant to do everything I can to facilitate the learning process,” wrote Kuhnle.

In 2008, Kuhnle received the BMW Award for Excellence from the Canadian Centre for German & European Studies and BMW Canada. In 2006, he won the Hazel McCallion Scholarship from the Canadian Centre for German & European Studies and the William D. Graf Essay Prize from the Canadian Centre for German & European Studies at York.

“There are many things about Lee’s teaching style that stand out, but most noticeable is his sincere concern for the success of his students. He really recognizes that we all engage with the material in vastly different forms, and that certain techniques will benefit some students more than others, so his classroom is an open environment where a student’s suggestions are taken very seriously,” said nominator and environmental studies undergraduate student Ashley Grover. “It is quite inspiring to sit in a classroom where all of the students have become so engaged with the material and relevant events that they feel so comfortable sharing their opinions with their peers.”

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.