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Maggie FitzGerald (left), James Reichert (middle) and Amy Stevens are the recipients of the 2023-24 College of Arts and Science Teaching Awards.

College of Arts and Science faculty members honoured for teaching excellence

Dr. Maggie FitzGerald (PhD), Dr. James Reichert (PhD) and Dr. Amy Stevens (DPhil) are the 2023-24 winners of College of Arts and Science Teaching Awards


By Chris Putnam

Three early-career faculty members are being recognized for outstanding teaching with 2023-24 College of Arts and Science Teaching Awards.

Dr. Maggie FitzGerald (PhD) of the Department of Political Studies; Dr. James Reichert (PhD) of the Department of Psychology and Health Studies; and Dr. Amy Stevens (DPhil) of the Department of Chemistry are this year’s recipients of New Teacher Awards from the college.

The New Teacher Awards are presented to instructors in the College of Arts and Science who began their appointments less than 10 years ago. They recognize exceptional teaching at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) based on testimonials from students and colleagues, teaching evaluations, and the candidate’s written teaching philosophy.

“It is with great pride that the College of Arts and Science has the opportunity to recognize and feature individuals of this calibre who model the award’s criteria of facilitating a vibrant learning environment, demonstrating positive teaching, professional growth, and embracing the teacher-scholar model,” said Dr. Jennifer Lang (PhD), acting vice-dean academic for the College of Arts and Science.

Maggie FitzGerald

New Teacher Award in BA, BMus or BFA Programs

Dr. Maggie FitzGerald (PhD) sees learning as a vulnerable experience.

“It requires us to be open to new ideas, and asks us to justify our own beliefs, values and knowledges,” she said.

Learning also comes with the risk of getting things wrong—a painful but essential part of personal growth. FitzGerald therefore goes to great effort to ensure her classroom is a safe place where everyone’s perspectives are valued and any critiques are made in good faith.

An assistant professor in the Department of Political Studies appointed in 2020, FitzGerald teaches courses on topics including justice, political theory and political economy. She recognizes that students of all backgrounds and levels of privilege share her classroom, and makes no assumptions about what knowledge they should already have. Her lectures are a constant dialogue among instructor and students in which questions are not just encouraged, but expected.

FitzGerald’s students have described her as someone with a gift for teaching who creates a sense of community among students.

“I think (students) need to feel that I am in their corner and that I am excited to support them as they grow,” FitzGerald said.

In less than four years, the political studies faculty member has designed or revised six courses and helped create the Certificate in Queer Theory, Gender Diversity and Sexualities Studies, a program that gives students tools to work toward social justice and equality.

In all of her courses, FitzGerald teaches one consistent lesson: that every student’s thoughts are valuable and welcome.

James Reichert

New Teacher Award in BSc Programs

Students of Dr. James Reichert (PhD) praise him as a passionate, organized and—above all—approachable instructor. A class with him is like a lesson from a trusted friend or family member.

When students ask a question of the Department of Psychology and Health Studies lecturer, they know they will receive a response that is not only informative and clear, but also respectful and encouraging of their continued learning.

Reichert, who joined the College of Arts and Science in 2020, teaches several USask psychology courses and specializes in teaching neuropsychology. He is known for breaking down complex topics into easy-to-understand pieces and for explaining concepts in innovative ways, such as giving real-world examples that apply to his students’ own lives.

“Effective teaching is not just about the transfer of information; it is about getting students to think about that information in a sophisticated and critical way,” Reichert said.

The psychology lecturer finds that students are naturally curious about neuropsychology—the study of the biological factors behind human thought and behaviour—and he works hard to help them harness that curiosity for effective learning. Reichert makes every class an interactive experience so that students connect with the material while building confidence and feeling included.

“My overriding goal for students is not only that they will value what they learn, but they will also learn something valuable about themselves in the process. Beyond teaching them to be good students, I also hope to inspire them to bring out the best in themselves and understand what true excellence looks and feels like,” he said.

Amy Stevens

New Teacher Award in BSc Programs

When Dr. Amy Stevens (DPhil) launched her new 400-level course in molecular spectroscopy, the Department of Chemistry was shocked at the interest from students.

It’s virtually unheard of for student demand to exceed the available seats in a challenging upper-level physical chemistry course—unless the instructor is Stevens.

Since her appointment to USask in 2019, students have learned to seek out Stevens’ classes. Their written evaluations praise the positive, collaborative environment of her classrooms and her informative, empathetic and engaging approach to teaching.

“I think my enthusiasm for the subject and showing students that I really love this stuff—even though it's difficult—can help them,” said Stevens, an assistant professor of chemistry. “And I always say that if I can understand this, you can understand this. It’s not that I’m some kind of super genius. I’m just like you, and we can learn this together.”

Stevens’ lectures are filled with real-world examples of course topics pulled from the news and from her own ultrafast laser spectroscopy research. She patiently demonstrates difficult concepts and clearly answers questions so that no one is left behind.

Stevens’ students are always an active part of her classes. Even in large first-year courses, her students are comfortable engaging in lively class discussions and comparing solutions to problems.

“What I find most enjoyable about teaching is dealing with students. I love hearing from them, seeing what they’re interested in, and I always get really enthusiastic when they seem to be enjoying the class,” said Stevens.

The College of Arts and Science is grateful to the faculty, students and colleagues who contributed to this year’s nominations. The recipients of the College of Arts and Science Teaching Awards will be recognized in person at a celebration on April 30.

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