Student appreciation most important reward for Distinguished Contributions to Teaching recipient
By Fred Michah Rynor
Rob Simon, Assistant Professor of Multiliteracies in Education in the Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, is thrilled with being the recipient of OISE’s Award for Distinguished Contributions to Teaching.
A teacher since 1997, Simon leapt at the chance to join OISE three years ago even though he had never visited the city before.
“To work at this world-renowned institution was just too good an offer to turn down and I knew that there was the added appeal of living in such a culturally diverse place because my family is Jewish-Pakistani and I knew my kids would probably find other diverse families like ours to interact and identify with.”
Simon was recognized -- after only three years at OISE -- in part for working “to support graduate students, teacher candidates and new teachers to gain deeper awareness of the richness of the diverse culture, languages and literacy practices students encounter in their classrooms and work.”
The awards panel also noted his history of enriching teaching and learning environments not only at OISE but in area schools as well.
In fact, he’s made a history of actually designing many courses and programs over his “many years” in the classroom.
“I’m teaching several courses including ‘New Literacies: Making Multiple Meanings’, ‘Curriculum and Teaching in English: Intermediate and Secondary’ and a new course offered next fall, ‘Practitioner Inquiry in Education’. Simon is the author of all three.
Regardless of his many achievements and awards, Simon’s personal modesty alongside his gratitude for OISE is obvious.
“No one succeeds as a teacher on their own and this latest recognition reminds me how important the community that I’m currently part of is -- as well as how important my students are to my own learning and progress. It is such a privilege to be acknowledged by the people in your life who matter most.”
He is, however, proud of an award from over a decade ago that he still considers one of his greatest achievements in academia.
Simon, then working in San Francisco, recalls the day when his students and colleagues at the Life Learning Academy named him 'The Teacher Who Most Changed My Life'.
“For a teacher like me to know that I’ve actually influenced someone’s life for the better is an amazing feeling,” he says. “The fact that I’ve received this new distinction from OISE adds to this feeling of accomplishment because it comes from an institution known for its great teachers, which makes this is a particularly appreciated honour.”
Simon is currently conducting research in the field of literacy with a specific interest in students’ literacy engagement in and out of schools, including video games such as Minecraft and strategic card games like Pokémon. He’s also intensely interested in how teachers learn together in communities of inquiry and he continues to research ways to break down barriers between the university and schools throughout the city.
“Next year I’m planning a collaboration between my students, eighth graders and teachers at the Delta Alternative School here in Toronto to jointly plan their curriculum.”
When asked where his research and teaching journeys might take him in the future, he’s hoping they’ll be right here.
“Canada – and OISE – are my homes now.”