During Mount Saint Vincent University’s 2020 virtual convocation, Dr. Kathy Darvesh, Acting Director of Teaching and Learning and Online Learning (TLCOL) announced the recipients of the University’s 2020 Teaching Excellence Awards.

The President and Vice-Presidents’ Advanced Career Teaching Award, the Alumni Early Career Teaching Award, and the Alumni Part-Time Teaching Award were presented to Dr. Alla Kushniryk of the Department of Communication Studies, Dr. Krista Ritchie of the Faculty of Education, and Professor Laurie Reed of the Department of Chemistry and Physics, respectively.The awards were established to recognize teaching excellence at every level, including senior and junior full-time faculty and part-time faculty. They reflect the University’s strong commitment to leadership in teaching and learning.

Meet this year’s recipients:

The President and Vice-Presidents’ Advanced Career Teaching Award: Dr. Alla Kushniryk, Communication Studies

During her time at MSVU, Dr. Kushniryk has demonstrated extraordinary technical and pedagogical creativity, knowledge and skill. Her teaching philosophy is one where she recognizes students as unique individuals coming from a wide variety of backgrounds. She does not teach her students to memorize material, but rather to think well and to apply their learning to everyday life. She welcomes student feedback and makes changes and adjustments based on this feedback. This student-centered approach leads to student success in the variety of undergraduate and graduate courses she teaches.

Dr. Kushniryk also exhibits teaching leadership, both in her own department and beyond. In her own department, she has been identified as the “go-to” person when it comes to support with troubleshooting in the various methods of program delivery offered by the department. This role has been formalized with the title of online coordinator, and Alla is the first faculty member to hold this important position.

Students report that Dr. Kushniryk has succeeded in creating a supportive learning environment even in online courses, where she makes herself available to students throughout the week on Moodle, Yammer, by phone and by email.

In the words of one of her students “She models … the future of post-secondary education.”

The Alumni Early Career Teaching Award: Dr. Krista Ritchie, Faculty of Education

At this early stage of her career, Dr. Ritchie impresses with her many strengths and in particular, her wonderful professional knowledge about teaching and learning.

Dr. Ritchie describes teaching as a personal passion, source of joy, and welcome intellectual challenge.  Her nominators commended her for the multiple forms of formative and summative assessment she brings into her course design and classroom teaching.

Students describe an engaging classroom environment where every effort is made to help them succeed. In one student’s words: “When I begin reflecting on Krista as a teacher, and on the course she developed for us, I soon realized that the two key themes for me were ‘inspiring enthusiasm’ and ’creative flexibility’. This includes the possibility of an art-based model to represent reflections on a book club reading.”

The Alumni Part-Time Faculty Teaching Award: Professor Laurie Reed, Chemistry and Physics

Professor Laurie Reed recently developed an online introductory astronomy course for asynchronous delivery. The course is a fine example of how thoughtfully applied course design, underpinned by a wealth of pedagogical knowledge and skill, can support rich and rewarding learning experiences for students. Through the integration of ideas from a range of disciplines and perspectives, students are able to connect their interests and experiences to the concepts and practices of astronomy.

She feels that it is her responsibility to help educate students to the best of her ability, and is well aware at all times that her students are the teachers, health professionals and educated world citizens of tomorrow. Professor Reed states that the quality of her instruction can potentially affect the life choices made by her students.

Her innovative combination of sky simulation software with interactive learning software allows for rich engagement. One student summed it up particularly well: “Laurie has wonderfully translated a plentiful and highly visual course to the online environment. Each unit is well explained, summarized, and packed with supporting visual content.”

Professor Reed has made contributions to the scholarship of teaching over the years, including a presentation at the TLCOL Celebration of Teaching and Learning, where she was the only featured part-time instructor.

Congratulations, Dr. Kushniryk, Dr. Ritchie and Professor Reed!