Wilfrid Laurier University is recognizing four outstanding student teachers with Student Teaching Awards of Excellence. The annual awards program honours Laurier undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students who create exceptionally meaningful and engaging learning experiences in their roles as teachers, mentors and peer leaders.
“Our recipients have used their teaching and mentorship positions to guide peers through the unique challenges of the remote learning environment, inspiring confidence, curiosity and competence among Laurier students along the way,” says Mary Wilson, Laurier’s vice-provost: Teaching and Learning.
“It is my honour to celebrate their accomplishments through this awards program, as each one has made significant contributions to Laurier’s mission to create thriving, future-ready communities where everyone has a chance to reach their potential.”
The 2021 recipients represent four of the 115 candidates nominated by faculty, staff or students for Student Teaching Awards of Excellence, the most nominations ever received for the awards.
Veronica Grad is a senior undergraduate student in the Department of Health Sciences who uses her roles as a supplemental instruction leader and instructional assistant to create learning environments where students feel comfortable asking questions, are motivated to participate and are open to making mistakes.
As a supplemental instruction leader, Grad facilitates weekly sessions for students in the Fundamentals of Chemistry courses CH110 and CH111, organizing activities that allow for hands-on practice and critical engagement with course content.
"I am extremely honoured and thrilled to be the undergraduate recipient of the Laurier Student Teaching Award of Excellence,” says Grad. “I am delighted I was able to make a positive difference in the learning experience of each of my students."
Grad also worked as an instructional assistant for Human Anatomy II during the winter 2021 term. She was responsible for assessing student assignments based on content, originality and communication. With her focus on student development, Grad always took the time to clarify difficult concepts and outline how students could improve.
Katrina Abela is a first-year master’s student studying developmental psychology, but that is just one of her many titles. During the winter 2021 term, Abela worked as an instructional assistant and teaching assistant for multiple psychology courses offered in Waterloo and Brantford. She also served as a graduate research mentor in Laurier’s Child Memory Laboratory and Child and Adolescent Research and Education Laboratory.
“I am honoured to have made a positive impact under such strenuous circumstances imposed by COVID-19,” says Abela. “I am grateful to work within a community that strongly values compassion, integrity and inclusivity in our collective approach to teaching and learning.”
In the classroom and in the lab, Abela empowers learners and mentees alike through active learning strategies focused on peer-to-peer collaboration. In her research lab mentor role, Abela shares her child development field knowledge while teaching undergraduate mentees critical research skills such as conducting literature reviews, data coding, data analysis and development research proposals.
“Our recipients have used their teaching and mentorship positions to guide peers through the unique challenges of the remote learning environment, inspiring confidence, curiosity and competence among Laurier students along the way.”
Cara Grosset has been engaged in teaching and leadership activities within Laurier’s Faculty of Social Work since she joined the faculty as a Social Work PhD student in 2013. Since this time, Grosset has taught and contributed to the development of several on-campus and online courses within the faculty.
Grosset designs courses to be active and inclusive, emphasizing the importance of connecting theory to practice by engaging students in activities such as role-playing, online discussion forums and conversations about on-the-job challenges and successes.
Most recently, Grosset worked as a contract teaching faculty member for the undergraduate course Human Behaviour and Environment, which is typically taught in person. She had to adapt the course to meet student needs within a remote learning environment.
“I am very appreciative for the continued support and engagement of students, mentors and faculty members,” says Grosset. “I am honoured to receive this award, particularly given the myriad of challenges we faced as a community in the context of the pandemic. Supporting student learning and well-being with compassion and care was a focus of my teaching this past year.”
Lauren Munro approaches her instructor and teaching and research assistant positions within Laurier’s Community Psychology program with the goal of creating learning communities grounded in care, compassion, justice and accessibility. Having completed both undergraduate and graduate studies at Laurier, she has leveraged her knowledge of Laurier student life in her teaching and mentorship activities.
“It is hard to put into words the immense gratitude that I have for my students and peers who nominated me for this award,” says Munro. “The Community Psychology program at Laurier is an excellent place to teach and learn. From faculty who centre justice in their teaching to peer-to-peer mentorship among grad students that emphasizes support over competition, I have had the opportunity to learn and grow my teaching and mentorship skills alongside so many exemplary scholars.”
Munro views the classroom as a collaborative space in which students, instructors and teaching assistants are all vital contributors and she strives to create environments of possibility wherein students have the chance to see themselves reflected in course content, feel supported in their learning and make connections to the world around them.