‘Poised to make significant contributions to education’: Meet OISE’s 2022 Connaught New Researcher Award winners

October 28, 2022
Photo features Whitneé Garrett-Walker, Alexandre Cavalcante and Katie Entigar.

Three early career faculty from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Whitneé Garrett-Walker, Katherine E. Entigar and Alexandre Cavalcante, have been named co-winners of the 2022 Connaught New Researcher Award.

The award, apart of the Connaught Fund program, helps new tenure-stream faculty establish competitive research programs – increasing the faculty member’s competitiveness for external funding. In the 2022 competition, about 50 faculty across the University of Toronto were recognized – with awards of up to $20,000 awarded to the highest-ranked proposals.

“Professors Alexandre Cavalcante, Katherine Entigar and Whitneé Garrett-Walker are poised to make significant contributions to education, supporting racialized and marginalized populations in the work of Entigar and Garrett-Walker, and examining key issues in Ontario mathematics learning in the case of Cavalcante”, said Professor Michele Peterson-Badali, OISE’s Associate Dean, Research, International and Innovation.

“In their research programs, all three researchers will address issues that improve educational experiences and positively impact the daily lives of learners and educators alike. On behalf of the OISE community, I congratulate these excellent OISE scholars on securing the Connaught New Researcher Award.”

This year’s group joins a talented group of OISE faculty who have won this award. In 2021, three faculty – Elizabeth Buckner, Kaja Jasinska, and Daniel Corral – were recognized. In 2020, Assistant Professors Arlo Kempf, Mark Wade, Claudia Díaz Ríos, Fikile Nxumalo and Jennifer Wemigwans were recognized with the award. In 2019, Assistant Professors rosalind hampton and Jennifer Brant received the honour, and Assistant Professor Chloe Hamza received the award in the 2016-2017 academic year.

Learn more about the winners and their research below.

Whitneé Garrett-Walker
Assistant Professor
Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education

Dr. Whitneé Garrett-Walker is an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership, Policy & Social Diversity in OISE’s Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education. Dr. Garrett-Walker, a scholar-practitioner with over a decade of experience as a teacher, and school administrator in the Oakland and San Francisco, Calif., area, seeks to understand the context and experiences of Black and Indigenous women educators and administrators – where she actively engages critical race theory in education as praxis, along with Black feminist thought, and applied critical leadership. Earning a Doctor of Education from the University of San Francisco, Dr. Garrett-Walker began her time at OISE in 2021.

What does this award mean to you?

As a Black, Indigenous (Natchitoches Tribe of Louisiana) and Queer scholar-practitioner, my intention in applying for the Connaught New Researcher Award was to create a project that was unique and grounded in love, truth and solidarity between Black and Indigenous peoples. Specifically, my project seeks to elevate the promise, challenges and potential of Black and Indigenous women educational leaders in Ontario.

There is a very long legacy of Black and Indigenous solidarity throughout history, and as a Black and Indigenous woman who served as an educational leader, I believe our experiences must be centred as we continue the work toward educational justice. The experiences of Black and Indigenous women school administrators in Canada are vital to our understanding of interrupting and dismantling oppressive educational leadership practices. It is equally important to learn from these women about how to wholly-centre the varying needs of the educational community (youth, elders, teachers, families etc.) in the reimagining of schools through collaboratively engaging in practices that will uphold a decolonized learning community.

What is a primary research question you have and how do you want to explore that question?

The metaphor in the title of my project, “As sunflowers face the sun,” speaks to the beauty of both the sunflower and the way it stands between and among fellow sunflowers and follows the sun. Sunflowers are very unique and one of the only flowers to turn and follow the sun as it moves across the sky throughout the day. To deconstruct this metaphor further, I liken the sun to our collective goal of creating educationally just schools. I attribute sunflowers as those who are engaged in the work of school leadership, seeking to create educationally just schools by actively and collectively engaging in decolonizing the experiences of teaching and learning across their schools, respectively. Together, these school administrators remain facing and following the sun which is the goal of transforming public education. Even as they transition and wither away, they leave seeds behind for the next season.

The goal of this metaphor is to visually describe what happens when we are all aligned in our vision to carefully and intentionally develop systems and structures that seek to increase culturally sustaining schools. Black and Indigenous women school administrators are sunflowers that deserve more cultivation, as their ability to follow the sun is fierce, yet they are in need of better soil and careful attention so they can continue to bloom and guide others to do the same.

My goal is to learn more about the ways that Black and Indigenous educational leaders experience their work as racialized and gendered leaders. To critically engage this question, these women must define, for themselves, their challenges, their need for healing and the potential of their work in and out of schools. I also want to learn more about how Black and Indigenous women find solidarity among each other, as groups that have been historically and intentionally marginalized, but are actively fighting this oppression with their lives and work, every day.

This study is guided by Black feminist thought (Hill-Collins, 2000; hooks, 1984. 2015a): Indigenous feminisms (Green, 2007; Suzack, 2015; Suzack et al, 2010; Smith, 2005), and critical race theory in education, specifically, the tenets of intersectionality (Crenshaw, 2017) and counter-storytelling (Solórzano & Yosso, 2002). When seeking to understand the experiences of racialized women, it is necessary to unpack the ways that systems of oppression manifests in their lives and impact their ability to exist as a whole in the professional world. The participants recruited for this study are self-identifying women who are either Black, Indigenous, or Afro-Indigenous.

Alexandre Cavalcante
Assistant Professor
Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning

Alexandre Cavalcante is an Assistant Professor in OISE’s Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning. He earned his doctorate at McGill University, with his dissertation focused on the financial numeracy afforded in secondary mathematics – which focused in on the textbooks, perceptions and practices of Quebec-based teachers.

With a concentration in Science and Mathematics Education, Cavalcante’s teaching and research interests include financial education, numeracy, citizenship, STEM, and entrepreneurship. He joined the Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning in 2020.

What does this award mean to you?

This award represents a recognition of the importance of discussing and researching financial literacy in the realm of K-12 education. With the rise of this field in the past decade, it is time for scholars in mathematics education to take a lead in the development of theory and practice – a sub-field that I call financial numeracy education. This award also represents a unique opportunity to explore in depth how a financial concept is introduced and developed in mathematics classrooms.

Thus far, research in this field has been limited to general arguments for the incorporation of financial literacy in the curriculum. Without specific regard for each concept and how it fits within the broader scope of a subject area (such as mathematics), it is difficult to generate new knowledge of curriculum and pedagogy in financial numeracy education. Furthermore, this award supports the launching of a long-term research program whose goal is to a) develop pedagogical approaches to financial numeracy education, and b) theorize the impact of financial literacy regarding our epistemological understanding of the nature of school mathematics.

What is a primary research question you have and how do you want to explore that question?

This study is motivated by the following question: “how is the concept of simple and compound interest (SCI) incorporated in the Ontario mathematics curriculum and how is it taught in class?” Preliminary results from our pan-Canadian ongoing research show that, in Ontario, SCI is taught in every grade from 7 to 12 through various mathematics domains. Despite the documented benefits of incorporating financial concepts in K-12 education, we have yet to understand how SCI can be implemented in different grades and mathematical domains and how these differences impact the teaching of such concepts. Differences in grade level imply a variety of students’ previous knowledge. Differences in mathematical domain imply distinct connections with other mathematical concepts.

Through an analysis of curriculum documents, video-recorded lessons, and individual interviews with mathematics teachers, this study will address the following objectives: 1) Explore the development of SCI in the Ontario mathematics curriculum; 2) Investigate the SCI pedagogies of mathematics teachers; 3) Compare and contrast the alignment between the development of SCI in the curriculum, and the pedagogy used by mathematics teachers.

Katherine E. Entigar, PhD 
Assistant Professor 
Department of Learning, Higher and Adult Education  

Katie Entigar, a critical applied linguist and Assistant Professor of Critical Adult Education, is based in OISE’s Department of Learning, Higher and Adult Education. Entigar specializes in multilingual education, new language acquisition, and adult ESL/EAL and joined OISE faculty in 2021. 

Currently, Entigar's research agenda focuses on the non-profit education of adult immigrants, drawing on women of colour feminist, intersectional, and decolonizing lenses to unearth and work creatively with concepts of contribution, silence, and coalition. 

What does this award mean to you? 

As a new professor at the University of Toronto, I’m energized, honoured, and a little daunted by this recognition! I finished my doctoral studies in June 2021 and I moved to Canada almost immediately after that, and knowing that I can continue my scholarship and community work in Toronto means a lot.  

As someone who works in community-based and non-profit adult education with newcomers, I’m honestly used to “making due” with very little; this grant means that I can accomplish a lot, including by bringing on passionate students who want to support this work. I’m hoping that this will be part of a larger project I have in mind to build a social science-type lab that houses multiple collaborative projects working at the intersections of linguistic justice, migrant justice and survivance, racial justice, and educational change.  

I’m also looking forward to applying for the SSHRC Insight Development Grant and Partnership Engage Grant in the coming 1-2 years, which will build upon the starting points of the Connaught project. I’ll put a little plug in here: I am very excited to collaborate with emerging scholars, including and especially students, who have similar commitments and invite folks to reach out if they’d like to talk more!   

What is a primary research question you have and how do you want to explore that question?  

The research I will be undertaking in AY 2022-2024 with the support of the Connaught New Researcher Award will answer the following questions: What are the different experiences of immigrant students in “inclusive” pedagogical practices in adult education? How do these students feel that these practices should be defined, and by whom? Inclusion is a complicated subject in education, and I published an article in January 2022 highlighting the findings from my dissertation research with adult immigrant students taking classes in non-profit/community-based organizations in the US.  

In my doctoral research, the participants argued that “inclusion” should be collectively determined by students and teachers and that “inclusive” educational practices can result in adult immigrant students feeling stereotyped or being asked to recount displacement stories, which may result in offence or even re-traumatization. The work is interdisciplinary and anti-racist, and I drew upon feminist and queer theory and practices to think about relationality and self-determination in community spaces, particularly with respect to how people choose to represent themselves as well as the assumptions adult educators make about “culturally responsive” approaches. This new project will recontextualize and deepen these insights in the Canadian context, specifically in the GTA working with refugees and other newcomers.

Share this Article: