Established in 1993, the Outstanding Teaching Awards highlight the value the Faculty places on excellence in teaching. Recipients are selected based on nominations by peers and students. David Cameron, dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science, presented the awards on April 24.
Congratulations to this year's recipients:
Erol Boran, Germanic Languages & Literatures
Erol Boran has proven to be an invaluable member of the Department of Germanic Languages & Literatures — not just for his innovative teaching, but also because of the leadership roles he has taken on. As a teacher, Boran has taught 18 different undergraduate courses and one graduate course — most of which he developed himself — ranging from language, to German culture and literature, to his very popular course on vampires. His courses reflect an innovative and experimental approach to teaching, and his commitment to broadening the definition of undergraduate education. Just two examples include his Theatre Production course which combines historical research with learning through acting — and resulted in public performances of the German play, Der Komet. Another course gave students the opportunity to experience Berlin’s history and culture through the University’s Summer Abroad Program.
Boran's teaching philosophy embraces exploration, humour and flexibility — principles that are reflected in his students’ comments. His students have said that he “creates an environment that encourages discussion and expression of opinions” and he “encourages us to think from different perspectives”. And one student even summed it up with: “Mad respect for Professor Boran.”
Franco Taverna, Human Biology Program
Franco Taverna was not just recognized for commitment to education as measured by the usual metrics of grades and graduating students — but for his commitment to community and making a difference in people’s lives — and for passing that passion on to his students through his enthusiasm and innovative approach to teaching.
Among his many achievements are his efforts in making community engaged learning a key part of his approach. For example, in his Exercise and Mental Health course, he has given hundreds of students over the years the opportunity to work with community organizations and health care facilities in Toronto. These opportunities were about more than simply learning and applying knowledge with seniors, and people experiencing various degrees of dementia — they gave students the opportunity to directly enhance the quality of their lives. The success of that approach is reflected in a student’s comment that “Professor Taverna showed us what it’s really like to be passionate about neuroscience and how to translate that passion into something that can serve the greater community.”
Similarly, through an International/Indigenous Course Module, he and his students visited facilities in the Netherlands with internationally recognized elderly care practices in order to apply those practices here in Toronto. In the words of Ashley Bruce, the Director of the Human Biology Program, “Franco thinks big and his goal is nothing less than to improve, in every aspect, the student experience. What Franco does on a daily basis is rethink and reimagine undergraduate education.”
Mark Taylor, Department of Chemistry
As one of his colleagues suggests, Mark Taylor's contribution over 11 years of teaching can be measured in quantity, quality and diversity. He teaches an impressive number and range of courses — from introductory life sciences to highly-specialized, upper-year courses.
He connects what he teaches with leading-edge research by integrating not only new published papers, but also current, real data into his courses. Plus, he doesn’t neglect covering leading-edge topics like computational chemistry.
Taylor has also been deeply engaged in course renewal throughout his teaching career — through syllabus re-design and the development of new and well-received lecture notes, assignments and evaluation material.
Student evaluations have consistently reflected his knowledge and enthusiasm for teaching, as well as his efforts to provide students with what they need to succeed. This includes audio recordings of lectures —a task that requires no small time commitment — to annotated post-lecture slides, and more. All of this, while maintaining a first-class research career that has resulted in a variety of awards including: a Sloan Fellowship, McLean Award, Polanyi Prize and more.