Faculty and Staff
Wanda Cassidy fosters warm and welcoming classroom environment
By Allen M. Quinn
Education professor Wanda Cassidy, co-founder and director of SFU’s Centre for Education, Law and Society, is held in high regard by colleagues and students.
Her passion for education and her ability to establish a warm and welcoming classroom environment have been recognized with a 2017 SFU Excellence in Teaching Award.
“It is a tremendous honor to win this award, particularly because students nominated me,” says Cassidy. “I believe it is both a gift and a responsibility to be a teacher of others—to promote a spirit of inquiry, to challenge students to think deeply and creatively about societal problems, to facilitate ways for students to engage with the world of ideas, and to foster a love of learning.”
Known for creating lifelong impacts on colleagues and students, Cassidy understands that engagement in learning, both in and out of the classroom, is the key to growth.
One of her methods for connecting with students is a “check-in” conducted at the beginning of most classes, when students can ask questions, make comments and offer suggestions. This helps Cassidy to align her assignments and presentations with students’ needs and interests.
“I like to provide a variety of ways for students to learn and demonstrate their knowledge,” she says, “Whether it be through group work, maker tasks, media presentations, artistic expressions, oral work, portfolios or field studies.”
Says one nominator, “She applied a learner-centered approach skillfully, in which we were given maximum flexibility to choose our presentation topics…and she took time to adapt the learning activities to meet our needs.
“Her actions didn’t just enrich and deepen my learning, but also showed me what I should pass on to my students.”
Cassidy aims to establish a relationship with every student, to listen to their needs and expectations, and to create a lively, engaging, respectful and intellectually stimulating learning environment.
Watching her graduate students flourish, develop confidence, and achieve success in their careers is one of the aspects Cassidy enjoys most about teaching.
Her advice for teachers who want to encourage their students to think creatively and critically: simply be yourself and create safe spaces in classrooms for students to explore ideas and to think “outside the box.”
And, she says, “Build connections between yourself, your students, the subjects you teach, and the world outside the classroom.
After all, “we teach who we are.”