Five outstanding faculty members who have demonstrated innovative approaches to teaching will be honoured during the 2018 Spring Convocation Ceremonies with President’s University-Wide Teaching Awards.
This year’s recipients are: Professor Dan Palermo in the Lassonde School of Engineering; Professor Ruth Koleszar-Green in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS); Bridget Cauthery, a contract faculty member in the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design (AMPD); Minha Ha, a teaching assistant in the Lassonde School of Engineering; and Reena Shadaan, a teaching assistant in LA&PS. They were selected by the Senate Committee on Awards for their imaginative and significant contributions to enhancing the quality of learning for students enrolled at York University.
“We are delighted to recognize this year’s recipients for the innovative teaching practices, creativity and commitment they bring to providing the best possible learning experiences for our students,” said York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton. “We are grateful to these academic leaders in our community not only for their dedication to our students, but also for their vital contributions to creating a culture of teaching and learning excellence that makes York one of Canada’s leading progressive and engaged universities.”
Each of the recipients will receive $3,000. Their names will be engraved on the President’s University-Wide Teaching Awards plaque in Vari Hall.
Dan Palermo, a professor in the Civil Engineering Program in the Lassonde School of Engineering, will receive the President’s University-Wide Teaching Award in the Full-Time Senior Faculty category. Palermo was the first faculty member to join Lassonde’s Civil Engineering program when it was established in 2013. He was instrumental in setting up both the undergraduate and graduate programs.
In their letters of support for Palermo’s nomination, students commented on his enthusiasm, clarity and approachability, his ability to connect theoretical with practical knowledge, and his ability to consistently offer real-world examples of theoretical practices in action. “Dr. Palermo looked for any chance to present real-world examples of lecture material… giving a deeper connection between the concepts and their role in my future career,” wrote one of his undergraduate student nominators. A proponent of experiential learning, Palermo is an avid supporter of involving undergraduate students in research and actively seeks research opportunities for them. His service extends beyond the University and he has hosted and trained MITACS Globalink Research interns in his laboratory. In 2009, Palermo received the Dean’s Teaching Commendation for his graduate course in seismic analysis and design for reinforced concrete structures.
Professor Ruth Koleszar-Green in the School of Social Work in LA&PS is the University’s inaugural Special Adviser on Indigenous Initiatives to the Office of the President. She is also the co-chair of the York University Indigenous Council, an advisory body on Indigenous education. Koleszar-Green will receive the President’s University-Wide Teaching award in the Full-Time Faculty category. Koleszar-Green, who identifies as an urban Indigenous person, is a citizen of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. She is from the Mohawk Nation and is a member of the Turtle Clan. Koleszar-Green is an expert in Indigenous education and social issues that impact Indigenous communities, as well as anti-racist education and income security reform.
In their letters of support, Koleszar-Green’s nominators consistently praised her teaching and knowledge of Indigenous peoples in Canada and for her approach to creating an inclusive environment. “Professor Koleszar-Green always motivated the ongoing development of learning processes inside and outside the classroom through disruptive, creative and Indigenous ways of knowledge production,” writes one of her nominators. She has led the way in Indigenizing institutional research and teaching structures at York University, receiving accolades from one nominator, who writes: “Her incredible skill as a knowledge keeper for our community continues to inspire and encourage us to believe that change is not only possible but, under her leadership, it is inevitable.”
As a contract faculty member in AMPD since 2008, Bridget Cauthery teaches in the Department of Dance. She is being recognized with a President’s University-Wide Teaching Award in the Contract and Adjunct Faculty category. Her nominators praised Cauthery for her imaginative use and command of technology enhanced learning and creative course development. She is a proponent for the use of video both as a teaching aid and as a method for students to submit videos of their original choreography. She has been an invited speaker on effective blended learning strategies to members of AMPD through the school’s lunch and learn sessions and focus groups.
Her investment in evaluating effective e-Learning strategies led her to complete the Teaching Commons’ EduCATE! Education, Curriculum and Teaching Excellence one-year program in 2015-16. She has researched the impact of innovative teaching methods on undergraduate students and will use her findings to inform future iterations of her courses. Her nominators referred to her outstanding ability to engage undergraduate students in their learning (for example, she addresses 250 students in one class each by name). She is a respected mentor and actively promotes the work of her graduate students. Under her leadership, one student writes: “I had the opportunity to benefit from her caring and attentive manner, her skillful maneuvering through a variety of different learning platforms and information sources, and her ability to draw all of these together as a coherent whole in a way which resonated with students’ immediate experiences.”
Minha Ha is a mechanical engineering doctoral student in the Lassonde School of Engineering. She will receive a President’s University-Wide Teaching Award in the Teaching Assistant category. Her nominators refer to her demonstrated leadership and contributions to the scholarship of teaching. “Students highlight the compassion, empathy, enthusiasm and engagement that Minha demonstrates in her teaching,” writes her primary nominator. “Ms. Ha is a teaching assistant who truly cares about her students and will go above and beyond normal expectations in order to see her students succeed.”
Ha received praise for her work as a teaching assistant coordinator and is described as someone who cares about her colleagues and mentors, and promotes their success in teaching. In her courses, she strives to include the historical narrative of concepts so as to situate students’ learning, she also invests in a genuine relational experience of mutual recognition and incorporates a firsthand experience of success. Inquiry learning is a large part of her teaching approach and Ha endeavours to make students’ learning visible as an important part of responding to their needs.
Reena Shadaan is a doctoral candidate in the Faculty of Environmental Studies. Shadaan is a teaching assistant in the Business & Society Program in the Department of Social Science in LA&PS. She will receive the President’s University-Wide Teaching Award in the Teaching Assistant category. Shadaan is an interdisciplinary researcher and the recipient of the 2017 Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship established to honour Nelson Mandela. “Reena is in a league of her own when it comes to TAing because she goes beyond what is expected and she strives to give her students the very best academic experience,” writes one of her nominators.
As a TA for SOSC 1341, Shadaan works with more than 200 students, (35 of them are taking the course remotely in Kenya). The course is in partnership with the Borderless Higher Education for Refugees (BHER) program, which provides online access to postsecondary education for refugees in the Dadaab and Kakuma camps in Kenya. (The course is challenging as it is delivered remotely to the students in Kenya.) Shadaan is praised by students in Canada and Kenya for her use of technologies such as email, Skype, Camtasia, Moodle discussion forums and WhatsApp, to make the pedagogy work for the African students. She uses a Freirean inspired, problem-posing method in her tutorials. She is described as being especially good at teaching students how to think critically about what they are reading and to think creatively about how to formulate and express their own ideas in class discussions and in written assignments.
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. The awards demonstrate the value York University attaches to teaching.