Wilfrid Laurier University is recognizing three outstanding student educators with the Student Teaching Awards of Excellence. The annual awards program honours undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students who have contributed to exceptional learning experiences for Laurier students through thoughtful and intentional teaching approaches.
"Laurier's 2023 Student Teaching Award winners have established themselves as outstanding educators, mentors and leaders," says Trish McLaren, Associate Vice-President: Academic. "Each goes above and beyond to ensure students are supported, guided and inspired in their learning. They are shining examples of Laurier’s commitment to student success."
Recipients of the 2023 Laurier Student Teaching Awards of Excellence:
Ana Ramirez-Cruz’s teaching philosophy is motivated by a desire to help students realize their full potential and pursue their passions – without being held back by a fear of mathematics.
Ramirez-Cruz, an instructional assistant in Laurier’s Department of Mathematics, finds joy in teaching students one-on-one or in small groups because it allows her to connect in meaningful ways and help students grasp difficult concepts. By gaining insight into who students are as individuals, Ramirez-Cruz develops beneficial learning strategies tailored to their individual needs.
As part of her classes, Ramirez-Cruz prepares detailed study guides and worksheets that complement her teaching and allow students opportunities to learn outside the classroom.
Ramirez-Cruz’s passion for teaching extends beyond mentoring and tutoring. She has served as an elected student representative on the Mathematics and Science department councils, serving as a voice for fellow students in department meetings and advocating for the expansion of elected courses.
By approaching teaching with adaptability, patience and passion, Ramirez-Cruz helps students excel in their studies and become more capable, adaptable problem solvers.
"I am deeply honored to accept the Student Teaching Award of Excellence. It means so much to me to be chosen among the many outstanding student teachers at Laurier," says Ramirez-Cruz. "I would like to express my sincere appreciation to my students, who have taught me so much throughout my teaching journey. Watching them grow and succeed, particularly in overcoming their fear of math, has been an incredibly rewarding experience."
Cortney Burnham creates a genuine connection with students by supporting their learning journey with patience, compassion and understanding.
A teaching assistant in the Department of Psychology, Burnham creates a positive learning environment by supporting students in accommodating, attentive and meaningful ways.
Burnham encourages students to engage in active and independent learning, feel empowered to ask questions, and strive for academic success. She aims to make students feel comfortable and lets them know she is there to support them when needed.
In her teaching, Burnham uses a student-centred approach that considers the different needs of each learner and provides clear feedback. When student are unsure about a concept, she is intentional with the types of questions she asks, helping students play an active role in their learning.
"I am truly honoured to have been nominated and selected for the Laurier Student Teaching Award of Excellence," says Burnham. "I am so grateful to be a part of Social Psychology at Laurier, where I have had the privilege to work alongside supportive and compassionate mentors and graduate students who have helped me become the teacher I am today."
Allison Petrozziello’s approach in the classroom builds on more than 15 years of international teaching, research and advocacy work with individuals and organizations including policymakers, grassroots groups and the United Nations.
Much of Petrozziello’s work has taken place in Latin America and the Caribbean, but for the past four years she has served as an instructor in Laurier’s Political Science and Women and Gender Studies programs while pursuing a PhD in Global Governance at the university’s School of International Policy and Governance at the Balsillie School of International Affairs.
Empowering learners to apply their knowledge and skills toward transforming unjust systems, policies and practices is central to Petrozziello’s teaching, which is based on five principles: interactive learning, critical thinking, empowering students to become politically engaged, inclusive pedagogy, and mentorship of students from equity-seeking groups.
Acutely aware that the classroom is not isolated from wider social relations, Petrozziello has spent three years creating "brave space" in her classes to frame dialogue around diversity and social justice. The brave space concept recognizes that instructors cannot guarantee a space where everyone will feel safe and that discomfort, managed skillfully, can be productive for learning. As one of Petrozziello’s students in Gender and Colonial Legacies remarked, "I feel more comfortable with my 'uncomfortability' when I know we’ve created this space."
"From classroom to Zoom room and back again, Laurier students have taught me how to teach in a way that is profoundly human and humanizing," says Petrozziello. "Thank you for seeing me, as I see you."