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OISE Teaching Award Winners Announced

May 5, 2011

By Jennifer Sipos-Smith

Four outstanding faculty members will receive the highest honour for teaching excellence at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. They are: Shari Burnard Ostrom, Bonnie Burstow, Usha James, and Carolyn Wilson. These awards were established in 2005 to recognize excellence in teaching across programmatic areas at OISE.   

Njoki Wane, the director of the Office of Teaching Support at OISE (OTSO) offered her excitement for this announcement: “As part of its mandate, OISE recognizes and supports excellence in teaching. These awards are a testimony to the community’s commitment to its students.”  Dean Julia O'Sullivan offered her congratulations to these fine educators, and expressed her gratitude for their "passion and leadership, and their outstanding contributions to teaching and learning at OISE and the University of Toronto."
Award nominees are recommended by their peers and students each year. The review and selection process is rigorous and competitive. A formal presentation of the awards will take place in late May at the OISE Awards and Commendations Ceremony. Accolades from each winner’s nomination file, as well as excerpts from the letters of recommendation of support, appear below. Congratulations!
Bonnie Burstow
Adult Education and Counselling Psychology
David E. Hunt Award for Excellence in Graduate Education
Bonnie Burstow’s work displays a strong commitment to the integration of theory and practice in all areas, deftly bridging concerns in Adult Education and Counselling Psychology. Her students speak highly of her willingness to support them both in the classroom as well as in their own research endeavours. Her methods are innovative in the class and include hands-on collaborative work with marginalized constituencies and counter-hegemonic theatre. Bonnie Burstow is active in the community, providing leadership and tangible examples of praxis at work. 
”One of Bonnie’s greatest strengths is forging links between student work and diverse communities. She does this by bringing the knowledge students develop within the academy into the community, and encouraging them to integrate their experiences from the community back into their academic work, thereby fostering scholarly activities that make a difference in both worlds.” –Jeff Myers, Shaindl Diamond, Adam Perry; graduate students
Usha James
Curriculum, Teaching and Learning
Award for Excellence in Initial Teacher Education
Usha James ranked very high in all aspects of her teaching, garnering high praise from her students. In her I/S History course and other IT seminars, she gives students practical tools to engage their students in critical engagement and models these methods in class. Students speak of her passion, dedication and level on engagement in classroom settings. She uses innovative methods such as Wikis in her classes and devises specific strategies to structure assessment, technologies and ‘debriefs’ to increase both engagement and instructional repertoire with her classes.
“In my first weeks at OISE, I was asked to imagine the best teacher I ever had. I have encountered and worked with many teachers through my five years of high school, four years of undergrad, and five years of graduate education. With all of that said, I could not think of a single teacher who had made a significant impact in my life. Now, however, if someone were to ask I would have an immediate response: Usha James.” –Lesa Smith, teacher candidate and nominator
Shari Burnard Ostrom
Additional Qualifications, Continuing Education
Award for Excellence in Continuing Education
Shari Burnard Ostrom teaches Special Education and works hard to challenge conceptions around special education students. Each of her students commented on how much she cares and is invested in the topic, inspiring them to do the same. She is active in mentoring and sharing career opportunities with her students. She engages multiple forms of media in her classrooms and is active in responding to concerns outside of the classroom, even actively encouraging students to remain in contact with questions and concerns long after the course is finished.
“Shari is a dedicated teacher whose love of teaching is apparent in every aspect of her work.” Shamsi Ladak, AQ student
Carolyn Wilson
Curriculum, Teaching and Learning
Award for Distinguished Contributions to Teaching
Carolyn Wilson’s work stands out as exemplary in all areas but particularly in her work and dedication globally in the area of media literacy. She is a champion for OISE in all her commitments and is actively involved both in OISE and on many external committees and citizen groups. She has worked in developing innovative online resources, represents Canada and OISE on a UNESCO media literacy initiative and advocates strongly for critical pedagogy and global education.
“Many of us come to teaching because of our love of literature, which Carolyn clearly shares with unmistakable passion. But she forces us to confront our conventional assumptions about teaching English, ensuring that we become conscious, reflective professionals, not simply impassioned amateurs naively carrying our own enthusiasms – and little else – into the classroom. Her international leadership in Media Studies makes her and excellent guide in how to meet the needs of today’s students by knitting together the threads of traditional, literature-based instruction and the new demands and opportunities of digital literacies.” –Peter McCamus, teacher candidate