Birgidda Bell, Department of Religion

TA Teaching Excellence Award, 2014

DID YOU ATTEND ANY OF THE TEACHING ASSISTANT TRAINING COURSES OFFERED BY CTSI/TATP?
a. How did the certificate program overall contribute to your development as a teacher?

I have taken several pedagogy and communication workshops at UofT over the years and am currently enrolled in the AUTP certificate course. I always come away from CTSI classes with new ideas and activities to use in my teaching. I found the most valuable aspect of the program was that it put me in contact with the large and active community of students at UofT that cares about engaging with and developing pedagogy.

b. Which one workshop was most useful for you and why?

Pedagogy 102. This workshop traced trends in higher education reform and pedagogy, providing the larger socio-historical context for many pedagogical practices explored at CTSI. While workshops offered by the Centre tend to be very focussed and practically oriented, the portrait of higher education that this workshop drew provided me with the ability to think critically about my own teaching practices and evaluate to what extent these appropriately reflect my position on the goals of higher education.

YOU RECEIVED A 2014 TEACHING EXCELLENCE AWARD. WHAT DOES THIS RECOGNITION MEAN TO YOU?
I’ve heard so many TAs talk about how undergraduates don’t care about tutorials and only attend for their participation grade, but these awards show otherwise. There are so many great teachers at the University of Toronto that deserve recognition, and I appreciate that my students count me among them.

CAN YOU RECALL A TEACHER WHO INSPIRED YOU?
I had a fantastic TA in the second year of my undergrad for a large, introductory religion course; her name was Jennifer. She didn’t just make us answer questions or talk at us; we did mini-research projects, talked about writing, did group work and played lots of games. Tutorials were about being engaged in our own learning, not just sitting in fear, hoping to not be called upon to answer a question. That made a huge difference to me as a student who was not keen on public speaking and always terrified of giving the wrong answer.  When I think about teaching tutorials I try to channel her creativity, engagement, and interest in her students.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO STUDENTS?
Spend some time exploring the resources that the University of Toronto has to offer. There are so many amazing programs, workshops, and events that exist to help students succeed (some even have free food!). They made a huge difference to my ability to read and write as a student, and definitely gave me an advantage over my peers.