Recipients of President’s University-Wide Teaching Awards embrace pedagogy

This year’s recipients of the annual President’s University-Wide Teaching Awards (UWTA) are being honoured for their innovation and commitment, as well as for having significantly enhanced the quality of learning by York students.

“Teaching excellence is the foundation of York’s reputation as one of the leading Canadian universities,” said York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri. “These recipients are outstanding individuals who are to be commended for their commitment and dedication to creating a stimulating and rich learning environment for our 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 and adjunct faculty, and teaching assistants. They are selected by the Senate Committee on Awards. The goal of the 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.

Each award winner will have their names engraved on the President’s University-Wide Teaching Awards plaques in Vari Hall. They will also be recognized during Spring Convocation ceremonies.

The recipients of the 2013 awards are:

Dawn BazelyProfessor Dawn Bazely of the Department of Biology in the Faculty of Science will receive the award in the Senior Full-Time Faculty category. The Senate Committee on Awards was impressed with the evident time and effort Bazely puts into thinking and writing about teaching, and making innovative changes to her courses. Students praised her ability to bring her research and life experience into the classroom, noting that she is a great mentor and wonderful role model whose passion inspires.

“It is a great honour to receive this award, especially because I have spent five of the last six years being the director of a research institute. To my mind, teaching and research go hand in hand and are completely intertwined,” says Bazely. “Those teachers who most inspired me during my undergraduate and graduate student times are (were) also outstanding and quite famous researchers. Not only were they my role models, but I also consider the wonderful students that I have had the privilege of teaching at York to be important role models for learning, teaching and research.”

Peter TsasisProfessor Peter Tsasis, jointly appointed to the School of Health Policy & Management in the Faculty of Health and the School of Administrative Studies in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, will be awarded in the Full-Time Faculty category. Students clearly value Tsasis’ inclusive classroom environment where he uses multiple innovative and challenging learning strategies to engage all learners, wrote the Senate Committee on Awards. Letters in support of the nomination speak to his leadership in the use of diverse forms of experiential learning, as well as to his outstanding mentorship and commitment to students’ success.

“It is a tremendous honour that I am to receive this award,” says Tsasis. “I would like to thank my colleagues for their support, and the students, for whom I am given the privileged opportunity to help impact their learning journey.” In 2010, Tsasis received recognition for outstanding leadership as an undergraduate program director at the School of Health Policy & Management, and in 2011 he received the Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching, in the Established Career Category, also at the Faculty of Health.

Louise BickfordAnnette Louise Bickford (PhD ’02) of the Department of Sociology in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) will receive the award in the Contract and Adjunct Faculty category. The nomination notes Bickford’s integration of student experiences into her teaching to increase understanding of complex theoretical debates. Those writing in support of the nomination speak of Bickford’s knowledge and her passion for sharing it, as well as her ability to encourage and challenge students to re-examine their views. Committee members noted not only her success as a hard-working, caring and respectful teacher, but also her commitment to continual improvement and contributions to the scholarship of teaching.

“I’m inspired by critical pedagogy and convinced that education is politically charged around issues of power and identity. I strive to foster egalitarian, collaborative educational spaces that challenge us to analyze and act upon social injustices, and to envision alternative, transformative conditions. My goal is to support students in their intellectual growth as people who think for themselves,” says Bickford. “It is a great honour to receive this award, and a privilege to work with York University students and colleagues whose intellectual curiosity, courage, perseverance and willingness to consider new ideas and diverse perspectives – all hallmarks of critical consciousness – are exemplary.”

Janet Melo-ThaissJanet Melo-Thaiss of the Departments of English and Humanities in LA&PS won the award in the Teaching Assistant category. Melo-Thaiss brings a good deal of experience as a course director at other universities to her recent work at York as a teaching assistant. She has an impressive breadth and versatility in her teaching and shares her experience when mentoring other teaching assistants. Committee members noted that students appreciate her ability to help them see and achieve their potential; ensuring that they learn, but making it fun at the same time.

“My teaching practice is based upon my firm belief that while imparting knowledge is one of my roles, encouraging students to draw on their own knowledge and experience is as important. My goal is to help students to access ‘what they already know’ and build confidence in their own voices,” says Melo-Thaiss. “So, for me, the classroom is not just about teaching my students about literature or writing, it is also about raising their awareness and sensitivity towards knowledge and wisdom. By encouraging students to approach knowledge from multiple perspectives, they benefit because they begin to ‘think about thinking’. In my experience, the positive ripple effects of the latter are quite profound.”