2020 UTSC Teaching Awards

Congratulations to the 2020 UTSC Teaching Award Recipients
 
For encouraging and inspiring students, fostering passion in the classroom and kindling an abiding interest in learning, the following nine educators have been named 2020 UTSC Teaching Award recipients. The award winners have been honoured for their highly distinguished teaching accomplishments or for displaying exceptional teaching promise. Some of the hallmarks of their teaching excellence include: creating virtual field trips and experiential learning opportunities that encourage students to see the world – and their subject matter – in a rich and meaningful way; designing creative assignments that bring about a deep understanding of a topic; and fostering nurturing, empathetic classrooms that make students feel safe enough to enter into thoughtful discussion. Warmest congratulations to this year’s recipients.
 
Associate and Full Professors
Ahmed Allahwala
Department of Human Geography
 
Assistant Professors and Lecturers
Jason Brown
Department of Biological Sciences
 
Heidi Daxberger
Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences
 
Suzanne Sicchia
Department of Health and Society
 
Unit 3 Sessional Lecturers
Stuart W. Livingstone
Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences
 
Unit 1 Course Instructors
Igor Shoikhedbrod
Department of Political Science
 
Graduate Teaching Assistants
Natashya Falcone
Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences
 
Nadiya Subdar
Department of Language Studies
 
Eliana Vonapartis
Department of Biological Sciences
 
 
 
ASSOCIATE AND FULL PROFESSORS CATEGORY
 
Ahmed Allahwala
Associate Professor, Teaching Stream, and Associate Chair, City Studies, Department of Human Geography

Ahmed Allahwala’s name is synonymous with UTSC’s City Studies program: he played a large role in developing it, teaches many City Studies classes and has served as program supervisor. “He has inspired so many students to decide to make City Studies their major,” according to Prof. André Sorensen of the Department of Human Geography. Allahwala is a campus leader in community-engaged learning, and has created many opportunities for students to collaborate with local community partners. Added one UTSC alum who took several of his classes: “He deeply cares about his students and enriching their learning environments by challenging their ability to comprehend real-world situations.”
 
An outstanding educator, Allahwala has made significant contributions to teaching and learning at UTSC and beyond. His courses have explicit learning outcomes, include effective learning activities and assessments, and provide a supportive learning environment and top-notch experiences for students. In all of his roles – including as Dean’s Special Advisor on Experiential Learning – Allahwala has engaged in curriculum reviews and development. He has also been a regular presenter and participant in Centre for Teaching and Learning programming.
 
 
ASSISTANT PROFESSORS AND LECTURERS CATEGORY
 
Jason Brown
Lecturer, Department of Biological Sciences

Jason Brown is a transformational educator and pedagogue who encourages his students to learn to their maximum potential. He teaches such classes as the Essentials of Human Physiology and Animal Physiology, and his assessments and creative assignments – including his Quercus quizzes – foster critical thinking, collaboration and communication skills. Brown has made numerous contributions to the mentoring of junior faculty, orienting them with educational technology and promoting evidence-based teaching practices. “Jason instills energy and passion into his lectures,” remarked Mark Fitzpatrick, assistant professor, teaching stream, Department of Biological Sciences. “His office hours are always boiling over with students. I’m certain many of them are there purely out of interest, just wanting to be around him and his ability to adeptly teach difficult concepts.”
 
 
Heidi Daxberger
Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences

In Heidi Daxberger’s Environmental Geoscience courses, she offers students many rich experiential education opportunities. Her teaching philosophy is founded upon the following pillars: engagement and interaction through technology; excitement and motivation to learn; approachability and accessibility; the interface of research and teaching; and the interconnection of transferable skills and teaching. Daxberger’s teaching record amply demonstrates her aptitude to enhance student learning through the development of mentoring programs. She has integrated virtual field trips and online 3D visualization tools of geologic sites and Google maps to provide students hands-on learning virtually in light of the COVID situation. A virtual field trip to Albion Falls, for example, incorporated geological graphs and maps, UAV video footage, 3-D imagery and photos. Daxberger has also been the recipient of many teaching grants. “Dr. Daxberger has profoundly influenced my interest in geoscience and the way I observe and think about the natural world,” wrote one student.
 
 
Suzanne Sicchi
Assistant Professor promoted to Associate Professor, Teaching Stream, July 2020, Department of Health and Society
 
Whether in large A-level lecture halls, D-level capstone experiences or TA trainings, Suzanne Sicchia is well known for fostering deeply supportive learning environments. “She has developed a stellar student-centred teaching practice, built around important principles of empowerment, caring and critical pedagogy that extends far beyond the classroom,” wrote Paul Kingston, professor, Political Science and International Development Studies, and director, Centre for Critical Development Studies.
 
Sicchia is an exemplary educator who provides rich experiential learning and hands-on opportunities for students. She displays a deep commitment to a reflexive, empathetic and critical teaching practice. She is a mentor to colleagues, fostering success and growth of other educators in the university. Her courses are built on explicit learning outcomes and effective learning activities and assessments. Especially notable are case study competitions from flipped classrooms and grant-funded community-engaged learning initiatives. Sicchia’s teaching philosophy is focused on the use of participatory course planning and instructional scaffolding to address barriers to learning and create more equitable classrooms.
 
 
UNIT 3 SESSIONAL LECTURERS CATEGORY
 
Stuart Livingstone, Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences

Stuart Livingstone is a superlative educator who consistently receives rave reviews about his teaching style, his mentoring abilities and his infectious enthusiasm about his subject area. “It gives me a great joy to witness his caring personality and passion for mentoring our students,” wrote Professor George Arhonditsis, chair, Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences. His teaching philosophy is indicative of a reflective teaching practice, where evaluations are viewed as a means to obtain input from students and then used to improve the course. Livingstone encourages active learning and his ability to design and deliver first-rate courses is truly exceptional. His awareness of structural systemic barriers in a STEM discipline has led him to develop an inclusive teaching statement, which he puts into practice in his classes.
 
 
UNIT 1 COURSE INSTRUCTORS CATEGORY
 
Igor Shoikhedbrod, Department of Political Science

Igor Shoikhedbrod is an exceptional instructor who continually seeks to improve his teaching practice. Students describe him as passionate and engaging, rigorous and demanding but also supportive and kind – a difficult balance that he achieves admirably. Shoikhedbrod is committed to the Socratic method of teaching, one that involves an interactive dialogue between students and teachers, and in which all those involved are engaged in critical reflection on matters of social and political import. “He has created an incredibly interactive and informative environment which inspired me to start analyzing insights from class in my everyday life,” according to one student. “He inspired me to engage with these intellectual ideas on a personal basis and made me realize my own love for academic pursuits.”
 
 
GRADUATE TEACHING ASSISTANTS CATEGORY
 
Natashya Falcone, Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences

Natashya Falcone cares deeply about quality education and she consistently goes above and beyond departmental expectations. She engages with discussion-based tutorials and is always available to assist her students. As a tutorial leader for a second-year Introductory Biochemistry course, “she was a great facilitator gently navigating students through their problem-solving process instead of giving students direct answers,” wrote Dr. Lana Mikhaylichenko, associate professor, teaching stream and associate chair, Undergraduate Studies Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences. Falcone has already crafted a detailed teaching philosophy and has also developed many tutorial materials – in particular a Peer Scholar Tip Sheet, which provides online guidance for students.
 
 
Nadiya Subdar, Department of Language Studies
 
As a TA for introductory French and French Linguistics courses, Nadiya Subdar seeks new and effective ways to help guide and assess students, making connections between the course material and real-life experiences. “She is sought after each year by a number of instructors for her TA methodologies and ability to help students further their learning of materials taught in class,” according to Sean Ramrattan, program coordinator. She is efficient and responsible; patient and enthusiastic. Subdar also provides a safe environment for students to express their ideas and opinions. She allows students to make mistakes and take risks during tutorials and provides them with detailed feedback and constructive commentary.
 
 
Eliana Vonapartis, Department of Biological Sciences
 
Eliana Vonapartis is a supportive and approachable TA who encourages critical thinking and discussion and uses drawings to illustrate key concepts. Although her graduate studies are supported by an NSERC research scholarship, she is also passionate about teaching and she has participated in the TATP Advanced University Teaching Preparation Certificate Program. Students describe her as an excellent teacher and mentor who provides clear and helpful explanations. She has aided in developing new labs and experiments for a lab manual and she taught several sessions of the course to high student praise. Eliana worked as a TA for Prof. Sonia Gazzarrini’s BIOD21 (Advanced Molecular Biology Laboratory). “During my office hours, students often praised Eliana’s ability to clearly explain concepts and techniques, as well as helping them interpreting the data obtained and troubleshooting experiments that didn’t work,” remarked Gazzarrini, associate professor, Department of Biological Sciences.