The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance Teaching Excellence Award recognizes educators who excel at unlocking the potential of Ontario’s young people. Successfully engaging individuals in the learning experience depends on an instructor's ability to spark students' curiosity and desire to learn. An excellent instructor will be able to engage their students in the process of learning and discovery and help them develop the critical skills that form the foundation of a robust education. With this in mind, the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance annually presents its teaching awards to professors from each of our member campuses who have taken this role to heart, and who have been selected by their students as examples of teaching excellence.
Dr. Tara Bissett is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Waterloo School of Architecture. Her research and teaching are in architectural history, with a focus on architecture’s relationship to craft labour practices, women in architecture, and the histories of alternative housing and informal urbanisms.
Dr. Bissett’s teaching has been wide-reaching, from impact in the design studio to core classes and teaching about research and writing in seminars. In only a relatively short time teaching at Waterloo, she has also developed her own syllabus for a range of different courses, including “Architecture: Pre-Renaissance to Reformation,” “Modernisms,” and a course on ornamentation.
Her teaching has been met with widespread acclaim from her students, even with the added difficulty that remote teaching has presented. Her students’ nominators endorsed her prioritization of mental health, her willingness to learn about student’s hobbies and interests, her use of film as a teaching tool, her commitment to non-Eurocentric perspectives, and the deep learning approach of her course deliverables.
Dr. Bissett is also a member of the Racial Equity and Environmental Justice Task Force for the University of Waterloo School of Architecture. The task force seeks to “examine the systemic disadvantages that underlie formal equality, working to change these, by offering specific supports for marginalized students, staff and faculty.”
An endorsement by a colleague expressed admiration for Dr. Bissett’s deep commitment to students, and her refusal to rest on her laurels, consistently exploring new pedagogical approaches to see what works for students. Dr. Bissett is a shining example of the quality of teaching that happens outside of our main campus, a credit to her field, and an ally for students and their wellbeing. It is my honour to present this OUSA Teaching Award to Dr. Tara Bissett.