If you see a woman walking the halls of SFU’s Burnaby campus in an 18th-century skirt and petticoats, it is very likely Nicky Didicher, a Department of English university lecturer who has been awarded a FASS Teaching Fellowship for 2019-20. The unusual sartorial style reflects her interest in 18th-century literature which extends into her personal life; one of her pastimes is creating historically accurate costumes, which she wears to class on appropriate occasions.
As a teaching fellow, Didicher will support the continuing improvement of undergraduate teaching and graduate training in FASS. The fellows’ role includes addressing the challenges that instructors face. To that end, Didicher aims to develop wellness strategies and a mentoring program for teaching assistants and faculty. Her studies in wellness strategies grew out of a longstanding relationship with the Healthy Campus Community and were enhanced through a 2018 grant from the Institute for the Study of Teaching and Learning in the Disciplines that allowed Didicher to investigate how mindfulness practices can affect student stress levels and ability to focus.
Didicher is also part of the FASS First initiative to retain students by delivering high-interest courses taught by experienced senior faculty to first-year FASS students. In fall 2019 Didicher’s FASS First course looks at “Disneyfication” through the exploration of five Disney “Princess” films: Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Pocahontas, and The Princess and the Frog.
“If you grew up watching Disney films, they may have affected how you see the world,” Didicher says. “The Walt Disney Company reworks fairy tales and historical narratives that promote a particular worldview and social values such as gender roles and capitalism. The course will compare the films with the source texts to see what they tell us about Western culture and how it has changed—or not.”
In addition to her Disneyfication course, Didicher’s teaching covers a diverse array of literary subjects from the eighteenth-century and medieval times to science fiction and children’s literature. And her novel approach to teaching goes far beyond animated films and period costumes. In her courses, students often choose their own reading lists, create their own assignments and schedules, build a website, or engage with their subject matter using alternative forms of learning and expression. Didicher shares her novel approaches to instruction as co-lead of the Rethinking Course Design workshop offered by the Teaching and Learning Centre to all SFU instructors.