Sara Santarossa is the 2017 recipient of  the GATA Award for Educational Practice. Sara is a current PhD candidate in the Department of Kinesiology, and was recently awarded the GA Award for Educational Practice. Her research focuses on the relationship between social media and technology with psychosocial variables. Sara has GAed numerous courses throughout her graduate studies, within a wide range of class sizes, and has had the opportunity to be a sessional instructor. She has been a presenter at the Windsor-Oakland Teaching and Learning Conference as well as GAT Academy, and is particularly interested in how to engage students with learning-centred teaching and active learning strategies.

The GATA Network Coordinators conducted the following interview with Sara:

1. What was the most difficult part of the nomination process?

Organizing the dossier into a meaningful fashion, was challenging, but in a good way. I wanted to be able to highlight what I had done in a manner that truly reflected my teaching and learning practice and philosophy. This takes time, creativity, and patience with the process.

2. Had teaching and learning been a big part of your life before you won the award? How did the award change your views on teaching?

I come from a faculty, that I believe, truly values teaching and learning. Having spent many years as a student in this faculty, I think, that passion for learning-centred teaching has rubbed off on me. The award has not changed my views on teaching, but has expanded them. Receiving this nomination and award has driven me to continue to pursue teaching and learning. I actively seek out and attend workshops or events, like GATAcademy, that the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) host on campus.

3. How will you continue to demonstrate outstanding educational practice in your academic and professional career?

Currently, I am working towards completing the University Teaching Certificate (UTC)
program. The mentorship and opportunities this program has provided me is making me better. A better teacher, a better learner. This program is challenging and thought provoking, and I know being immersed in such an environmental that develops critical thinking will help grow my educational practice.

4. How has the GATA Award impacted your life, if at all?

Being nominated for this award demonstrates the meaning of the “HK Family” we all talk about over in Kinesiology. Faculty, students and fellow grad students all had to write letters of support as part of my nomination package. Receiving this award is not only humbling, and helps to verify that how I act and what I do as a GA makes an impact, but it allows the rest of the University to see what we do in HK. How we teach and learn. How we care about each and every student.

5. What is the most rewarding or best part about being a GA/TA?

Most rewarding part of being a GA is the relationships I get to build with the students, and faculty.

6. What is your favourite GA/TA memory?

My favourite GA memory would have to be while in Dr. Paula van Wyk’s Human Movement
and Aging class. Throughout the entire semester the other GA (Mike Hatten, who actually wrote one of the letters of support for tis award) and I would have competitions that would reflect and/or simulate what was being taught in the course. For example, if we were talking about physical ailments of aging, such as arthritis, Mike and I would simulate this by taping the joints in our hands, reducing our gait, etc; then perform some sort of competition based task, like who could walk across the room the fastest. The theme of Team Sara and Team Mike was a constant throughout the semester and it was such a clever way to engage the students in what was being covered. I made Team Sara heads for all of my supporters, as seen in the pictures below!

7. Is there any advice that you would give others who are considering being nominated for a GATA award?

(A) Keep the feedback you receive from students. Whether this be an email, a tweet, or
something hand written – keep it. All of this feedback can be used as evidence to support your GATA Award package, and show that you are making an impact in teaching and learning.

(B) Give yourself ample time to put together a quality package. This is not something that can be done overnight!


For more information regarding descriptions and criteria of the GATA Awards, visit the CTL Website.

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