Three honoured with teaching awards at Spring Convocation

Convocation stage

Three individuals at York University who have demonstrated exceptional and innovative teaching methods will be honoured with the annual President’s University-Wide Teaching Awards (PUWTA) during Spring Convocation ceremonies.

Award recipients Kabita Chakraborty, Krista Hunt and Matthew Strang were selected by the Senate Committee on Awards for their significant contribution to enhancing the quality of learning for York students.

This year’s recipients were selected from the following categories: full-time faculty with less than 10 years of experience; contract and adjunct faculty; and teaching assistants.

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.

“Kabita, Krista and Matthew truly exemplify the qualities of academic excellence and engagement that make our York faculty unique among their peers,” said Mamdouh Shoukri, York University president and vice-chancellor. “Through their curiosity, the innovative nature of their teaching strategies, and above all, their commitment to the success of our students, they epitomize what effective teaching looks and sounds like today.

“On behalf of the University community, I congratulate them on this well-deserved recognition of their efforts, and I look forward to celebrating each of them on stage at Convocation in the coming days.”

This year, all of the recipients come from the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies (LA&PS).

“We actively create a supportive environment that encourages innovation and fosters respect for teaching and learning as the foundation of what we do in LA&PS,” said LA&PS Dean Ananya Mukherjee-Reed. “I am incredibly proud of the excellence of our faculty and join my colleagues in congratulating these individuals for their commitment to quality teaching, for the engaging classroom environment they create and for the rapport they develop with our students that is so critical to their success.”

Kabita Chakraborty, in the category of full-time faculty

Kabita Chakraborty

Kabita Chakraborty is a professor of Children’s Studies in the Department of Humanities, LA&PS, and will be recognized for her ability to bring real-life examples into the classroom and use those examples to help students make real-world connections with respect to theory and research.

Chakraborty has been lauded for her passionate and innovative teaching practice that involves a variety of “fun and practical” teaching tools, as well as fostering the development of critical thinking and incorporating her global experience into that teaching structure.

“Through her rich knowledge and years of vast international experience, she has opened our eyes to a new framework of learning,” said Department of Humanities Chair Andrea Davis in her letter supporting the nomination.

In addition to teaching Children and Youth Studies at York, which has a multi-disciplinary focus in humanities, social sciences and international development studies, Chakraborty founded the Children Studies Career Seminar. She has been working on several research projects, funded by a Social Science and Humanities Research Council grant of $55,395 to explore young people’s representations of “eve-teasing” in South Asian popular culture, and on young people’s experiences of public sexual harassment in the urban slums of India.

She also designed and created a graduate course, “Youth Subcultures in the Theory and Practice”, for consideration for teaching in 2017.

“My aim as a learning facilitator is to create an environment that is a dynamic site of participatory learning where students can take ownership of their learning processes, develop multiple skills, and support one another’s academic and personal growth,” she said.

Chakraborty will receive her award Tuesday, June 21 at 10:30am.

Krista Hunt, in the category of contract and adjunct faculty

Krista Hunt
Krista Hunt

Krista Hunt is an adjunct professor in the Department of Political Science and a learning specialist and advisor at York’s Centre for Human Rights. She is being recognized for providing students with outstanding experiential learning opportunities and for creating an inclusive, encouraging and empowering learning environment.

Hunt has taught the courses “Violence Against Women”, “Women, Community and Policy Change”, and “Women, Violence and Resistance” during her time at York University. She has also applied through CUPE and the Learning Commons to develop a course at York entitled “Violence on Campus: Strategies for Change” and was successful in receiving funding to develop this course.

She is noted for taking a “strong leadership role developing and initiating new opportunities for students at York University and in the community-at-large,” said York alumna Fatima Noor Khan, who was enrolled in the “Gender and Development” course taught by Hunt in 2011 and wrote a letter supporting the nomination.

Khan notes that Hunt’s unique and experimental classroom approach can be drawn from her Teach.Learn.Change project – an online education tool Hunt developed as a resource for classroom activities, assignment and ‘action’ projects.

“Her teaching practice was grounded in the lived experience of the learner,” said Benjamin Huff, a former student, in his letter supporting her nomination.

Hunt describes her teaching style as fostering critical analysis, multi-directional dialogue and taking action, as opposed to the banking system of education.

“I am committed to teaching in a way that promotes a diversity of voices and opinions, provides activities that engage a wide range of learning styles, and creates opportunities to challenge assumptions and stereotypes about ourselves and others,” she said.

Hunt will receive her award on Wednesday, June 22 at 3:30pm.

Matthew Strang, in the category of teaching assistant

Matthew Strang is a sociology doctoral candidate focusing on the areas of health, illness and medicine, and is being awarded for his exceptional dedication to the practice of co-constructing knowledge.

As a teaching assistant, he uses a student-centred approach to teaching and facilitates critical discussion. Known to incite a high level of engagement from his students, Strang has been commended for his ability to make content meaningful to students by incorporating methods such as media clips, using play and encouraging students to share their own experiential knowledge.

“He teaches students how to think sociologically, how to write and express their views, and how to reflect on the relationship between their experiences of health and illness and broader social and political contexts,” states Eric Mykhalovskiy, a professor in the Department of Sociology. “He works tirelessly with his students and has devised innovative pedagogical strategies that enlist audiovisual, print and other content outside of the established course curriculum to meet his goals.”

Strang is also recognized as a teacher that facilitates critical discussion, and at the same time exhibits remarkable sensitivity to diversity in the classroom.

“Cultivating an active learning environment with my students is at the heart of my practice and students are encouraged to accept some responsibility in creating this productive learning environment,” he said.

Strang will receive his award on Wednesday, June 22 at 10:30am.