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Teaching Excellence Awards to continue despite classes being online

By Luis Armando Sanchez Diaz, September 29 2020—

The Students’ Union’s Teaching Excellence Awards (TEA) will continue despite the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The TEA recognizes prominent faculty members — professors and teaching assistants — for their efforts in having outstanding teaching methods resulting in positive learning experiences and active engagement and dialogue with their students.

The recognition of academic quality by the SU is nothing new as it has happened for over the past forty-five years, always aiming to praise the abilities of faculty members that contribute to students success. The current form of the award — a bright red apple — has been the same since 1984. 

The SU adapted this year´s nomination process, ensuring that students are able to participate despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. In a conversation with the Gauntlet, Semhar Abraha,  vice-president academic expressed that, while judges usually go to classrooms and hand out papers and talk about professors and TAs,  this year is going to be purely online.

According to a recent press release by the SU, nominations  will be open for the fall semester from Sept. 14 – Oct. 23. Regarding the winter term nominations, the process will be open for students to participate in as early as Jan. 18, 2021. 

When asked about the possibility for first-year students to be involved in this activity, Abraha noted that all students would be encouraged to participate. 

“So the current procedure is easier for students in large classes, our procedure is based on how many students nominate a professor or TA out of the whole class.,” said Abraha. 

Last year more than 1,143 nominations were submitted resulting in a total of 37 recipients that ranged from faculty members to TAs and instructors. The SU makes a donation of $5,000 in recognition of the winners to the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning after the awards as well..

The TEA is an opportunity for students of all majors to honour the professors — who in their opinion — have provided a unique way of teaching in their courses. You can find more about the criteria here

In addition to discussing how professors must get creative and engaged during these unprecedented times, Abraha had some advice for students as well, recommending that all students stay organized. 

“Try to work on your assignments, on your papers ahead of [the due dates] so you have time,” she said, while expressing that COVID-19 has presented huge challenges. 

“It’s very tough for all of us,” she said, but argued that students must continue to stay engaged with university-related matters during these unprecedented times.

“Let’s continue to advocate, let’s talk, building relationships especially for professional students,” she said. 

Abraha concluded by encouraging students to “turn on their camera,” while taking a class and to “participate by asking questions” so that the class becomes more interactive and students find new friends as well as getting a more meaningful experience from the course.  

“I know most students don’t feel comfortable having their camera on, but if you think about it and you want to get the best out of the class, you have to interact,” she finalized. 

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