The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance Teaching Excellence Awards recognize educators who excel at unlocking the potential of Ontario’s young people. Successfully engaging individuals in the learning experience depends on an instructor's ability to spark students' curiosity and desire to learn, and this has never been more true than what we have witnessed over the past couple of years. It is our pleasure to give these remarkable professionals the recognition they deserve.
This year, we were delighted to award our recipients in-person at our annual Partners in Higher Education Dinner! While we continued to host this event virtually over the past 3 years, it was rewarding to be able to share these moments with other partners in the sector. To view photos from the event, please visit our Facebook page here.
OUSA is proud to present our Awards for Teaching Excellence to the following professors, nominated by students at our member institutions:
Dr. Colleen Hood, Brock University
Dr. Hood is a passionate advocate for people with illnesses and disabilities. With an international reputation for leadership in her field, she has been a professor in the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies at Brock University for the past 19 years and prior to that at several other universities in Canada and the US. Her area of expertise is the profession of therapeutic recreation - an allied health profession that provides services designed to support the development of capacities related to living well with illness or disability through the use of, and engagement in, meaningful leisure experiences. Her enthusiasm and commitment to teaching and inspiring future professionals flows through all of her academic endeavours. She infuses her classes with personal stories from the field combined with sophisticated examples of the use of theory and research to inform practice. She pushes students to envision themselves making a significant difference in the lives of clients through critical thinking and through increasing their own sophistication in conceptualizing and delivering their services. Her authenticity inspires students to connect and engage with both the material and with her personally – she has often been identified as a role model for both undergraduate and graduate students. Her commitment to the profession also inspires students to be agents of change in the field and to engage in the work of professional associations.
Lissa Gagnon, Laurentian University
Lissa Gagnon is an Assistant Professor at the School of Nursing at Laurentian University, where her research focuses on both healthcare and pedagogical concerns. Not only does Professor Gagnon advocate for her students, but she also has a passion for teaching that is clearly evident. This passion has been recognized by the dozens of students who nominated her for this award. They praised her dedication, compassion, and her ability to always keep her students engaged. She has an unwavering commitment to her students, and they are grateful for her continued advocacy.
Dr. Catherine Anderson and Dr. Ai Taniguchi, McMaster University
Dr. Catherine Anderson has been a prominent leader in the McMaster community, as a Learning Portfolio Fellow with the MacPherson Institute and is member of McMaster's Centre for Advanced Research in Experimental and Applied Linguistics. Dr. Anderson has led numerous projects that have increased the financial accessibility of education and improved the quality of education received by students. Dr. Taniguchi is an advocate of public outreach and education in linguistics. Along with other dedicated researchers and educators, Dr. Anderson and Dr. Taniguchi created Essentials of Linguistics, a foundation linguistics textbook used by hundreds of students annually, and has been distributed as an open educational resource. This textbook is a result of collaboration between traditional knowledge brokers, such as professors, and the specialized and often overlooked knowledge of community members, such as Indigenous Peoples. It is available free of charge, while the previous textbook used to cost $147, resulting in cumulative savings globally estimated at $2.3 million for students in textbook fees. Dr. Anderson and Dr. Taniguchi’s creation of Essentials of Linguistics not only demonstrates them as committed educators for students, but also serves as an inspiration for how education can be more equitable, inclusive, and collaborative.
Dr. Laila Haidarali, Queen’s University
Laila Haidarali is a social and cultural historian of the United States who specializes in race, gender, and sexuality, with a particular focus on twentieth-century African American women. Born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago, Laila immigrated to Canada with her family at university-age obtaining her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at three different universities in southwestern Ontario. In 2018, she returned to Canada after spending nine years in the U.K, where she taught U.S. history courses on race, ethnicity, immigration, women, gender, and sexuality. At Queen’s University, she teaches courses on The African American Experience, Black Women in U.S. History, and a specialized upper-year seminar on The Harlem Renaissance. Dr. Haidarali has shown a clear commitment to her students through her teaching style, being described as “courageous in the face of challenges,” and having reinvigorated her students' love of learning. Her grading schemes and seminar formats offer her students many ways to succeed in the classroom, and students have also noted her willingness to help them outside of the classroom as well.
Joel Baetz, Trent University Durham-GTA
Joel Baetz is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of English Literature. He is a past winner of Trent's Symons Award for Teaching Excellence and the Award for Educational Leadership and Innovation. While teaching at Trent's Durham Campus -- in courses ranging from graphic fiction to literatures of love and hate to twenty-first-century poetry -- Joel aims to help students read carefully, think creatively, and write clearly. These are lofty goals, and can only be aimed for when students find in their classrooms a sense of purpose, a heavy dose of joy, and faith that their words and ideas matter.
Faisal Al-Faisal, University of Waterloo
Faisal is a member of the Mathematics Undergraduate Group (MUG) which is a team of dedicated lecturers specializing in the education of students in post-secondary mathematics. Faisal has completed BMath and MMath in Pure Mathematics from the University of Waterloo and a PhD from the University of Toronto which validates his caring, inspiration, and continued love for learning that he now devotes to undergraduate students. Faisal is highly recognized for his engaging lectures and accompanying notes from lessons due to his personality, genuine passion, and his utilization of technology. He has the ability to teach calculus and algebra courses in a way that is cultivating a gratifying learning experience for his class. He is attentive to his students’ needs by recognizing gaps and fulfilling them in a creative way, and continues to put the student learning experience first, actively demonstrating this inside and outside of the classroom.
Dr. John Paul Minda, Western University
Dr. Minda is a Professor of Psychology at Western University. He has been teaching at Western since 2003 and has supervised numerous undergraduate honours thesis students, independent study students, and undergraduate research projects. Dr. Minda teaches several courses related to cognitive psychology and he was the 2020 recipient of the “Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching” at Western. Dr. Minda’s favourite course—and his most popular—is the third-year course on “The Psychology of Thinking” which is about thinking, reasoning, problem solving, and how to think about the world. Students at Western nominated Dr. Minda, describing him as one of the most engaging and caring professors that they have encountered. They also cited his incredible consideration for students, and his consistent efforts to meet students where they are in terms of support and his pedagogy. Many students go out of their way to take his classes because of his kindness and engaging approach to education, and was nominated as an excellent example of professors who make their research applicable to the real world in a unique and engaging way.
Jeffery Klaehn, Wilfrid Laurier University
Jeffery Klaehn is a professor within our Faculty of Arts teaching within Departments of Sociology, Communication Studies, Human Rights and Human Diversity, and Criminology. This year in our open nomination process, Professor Klaehn has been recognized for supporting students in their academic careers with genuine concern for the individuals' education. Students have highlighted that he is always looking out for the best interest of his students, helping enable their success and helping reach their academic potential. Dr. Klaehn always goes above and beyond to support students and he provides a learning environment that is welcoming, patient, empathic and kind. His recognition as an outstanding educator is well-deserved and stands as a testament to his unwavering commitment to both his students and teaching.
Congratulations to all our recipients, and thank you for all your work in fostering students’ engagement with their learning!