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A Study in Excellence: OISE Cressy Award recipients to join ranks of U of T alumni

“My goal as a teacher is to answer the 'why' of my students and help them discover their passion in life.” Kavjit Singh Gogia

June 18, 2015

OISE Staff

Five outstanding OISE graduate and Initial Teacher Education students are among more than 200 recipients of University of Toronto Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Awards whose spirit of giving back was celebrated at a gala ceremony at Convocation Hall earlier this year. Several of them will be among their graduating class at Convocation Hall June 18, officially joining the ranks of well over half a million U of T alumni.

Amilcar Barnett Martinez (BEd), Kavjit Singh Gogia (BEd), Tiffany Ng (PhD), Jennifer Tinh Nguyen (BEd) and Xiaoyong Xia (MA) joined more than 3,000 student leaders who have been recognized over the past two-plus decades for qualities of leadership and dedication to “making a difference” at OISE, the University and beyond.

“I am delighted to congratulate our 2015 Cressy Award recipients, who are actively involved in the community making a difference by improving the lives and learning of others,” said OISE Dean Julia O’Sullivan.

The Cressy Awards are a benchmark among volunteer student awards in Canada. The award’s prestige is directly attributable to the excellence of student leaders at the University of Toronto.

“U of T has well over half a million graduates,” says Barbara Dick, Assistant Vice President of Alumni Relations, “but even within an alumni population this large Cressy winners stand out—in their communities, professions and in their ongoing support of the University.”

OISE’s Cressy recipients continue to lead and give back in a host of ways:

Amílcar Barnett Martínez, graduating with a BEd in Junior/Intermediate education in June, is a leader who is knowledgeable, caring and always willing to lend a helping hand. He goes beyond to support, motivate, encourage and assist members of the Midtown Option cohort as well as fellow OISE students. These qualities are embedded in his teaching and all other aspects of his life. Amílcar advocated for the importance of co-curricular achievements for his J/I Midtown Option colleagues and created a heavily used academic community calendar for the group. His career experience in relevant fields and thoughtfully researched career goals of his own made him an invaluable source of guidance and advice for his fellow students.

Kavjit GogiaKavjit Singh Gogia, graduating with a BEd in Primary-Junior (K-6), is fluent in three languages, and,  with several years of teaching experience on three different continents, he is a committed leader. As President of the Student Teachers’ Union, Kavjit’s focus has been on enhancing student life at OISE by providing platforms for students to voice their concerns, discuss issues and new ideas. His love for teaching and education grew through participating in educational projects across low-income schools in India, summer camps in Ukraine and volunteering in special needs classes in Toronto.

Tiffany NgTiffany Ng, graduating with a PhD in Curriculum, Teaching and Learning–focus in Literacy Education, has been an active member within her program and department, serving as Vice-President and President of the Curriculum, Teaching and Learning Student Association since 2012. In these roles Tiffany worked closely with the student community in developing innovative new programs, including a PhD Buddy System that paired incoming students with upper-year mentors to ease the transition to graduate life. She launched the Pre-Conference Presentation Series, a popular venue which provided students opportunities to hone presentation skills and share research-in-progress with colleagues.

Jennifer Tinh NguyenJennifer Tinh Nguyen, graduating with a BEd in Primary/Junior education, is an outstanding Initial Teacher Education student who has made significant contributions to the community through her volunteer work. In her social justice arts-based course assignment, Jennifer  involved her practicum students in creating greeting cards to raise money to build a children’s home in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She even recruited other teacher candidates to do the same with their students, and then organized a highly successful fundraiser at OISE.

Xiaoyong XiaXiaoyong (Andy) Xia, graduating with a MA in Languages and Literacies in the Collaborative Program in Comparative, International and Development Education, has supported the international student community at OISE and the wider University of Toronto campus through his work as a graduate student representative at the Centre for International Experience and member of the OISE Graduate Students’ Association Council working on improving transitional services for OISE’s international graduate students. As a member of the Comparative, International and Development Education Students’ Association, the Chinese Graduates’ Association, and DreamNovation, Andy has worked to build strong connections between the University and the global community.

The Cressy Awards, named after Gordon Cressy, former vice-president of development and university relations, were created by the University of Toronto Alumni Association and the Division of University Advancement in 1994. They recognize graduating students for their outstanding contributions to improving the world around them and inspiring others to do the same.

The awards committee chooses students who, through their extra-curricular activities and participation in student and campus life, have made real change to their faculty, school, college or the University of Toronto as a whole.

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Photo credit: Gus Toledo