Speak to Associate Professor of Teaching Elisa Baniassad for even a few minutes, and you'll get a sneak peak of the infectious energy she brings to her teaching.
Elisa’s positive energy and passion is perhaps at least part of the reason her colleague, Professor Reid Holmes, nominated her for the CSCan/INFOCAN Excellence in Teaching Award, and perhaps also partly why she won.
Yet it’s clear that is far from the only reason. For starters, consider her willingness and enthusiasm to make a difference in bigger ways. In 2022, Elisa became the Director of the Institute for Scholarship of Teaching & Learning at UBC. Since then, she has co-created a new grant that enables the formation of interdisciplinary teams of researchers inquiring into fundamental questions in higher education. “It’s an amazing new opportunity for researchers in Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, and carries huge pride that it is funded by both the VPRI and VPA offices,” Elisa said.
In her teaching practice, she examines how to redesign her classes and methodology to make all aspects of the course more accessible to all types of students. “I’m looking at ways for those with mental or emotional challenges, or those who have different ways of learning, to have their needs accommodated in the classroom.”
Her philosophy centres around respect and appreciation for every student. “I concentrate on making sure each student knows how much they are appreciated and that I am truly delighted they are present in the course. She went on to say that students need to feel emotionally safe in a classroom so they can maintain an openness to learning, and that they need to feel welcomed and validated in order for this to happen. “Even on Zoom where I have an attendance of 300,” Elisa explained, “I need to be my most gracious and open self, because it’s vital to students’ learning to maintain a tone of radical welcoming. In fact, that’s more important than the content of what I am saying,” she said.
Elisa is humble and reluctant to take much credit or kudos when asked about receiving the award. “I have no idea why I won,” she said. “I don’t feel I stand out among my peers. UBC has such a high calibre of teaching and learning. It’s wonderful to see that two of the three winners of this award are UBC professors!”
“I was challenged to raise my game when I came to UBC”, she says. To transform her teaching practice, she watched her colleagues, and through that observation, endeavoured to meet the high bar of intentional teaching established within the department. The culture of pedagogical excellence inspired her to do better, teach better, be inquisitive, and stay eager for inspiration in evolving her teaching practice.
"I need to be my most gracious and open self, because it’s vital to students’ learning to maintain a tone of radical welcoming." - Elisa Baniassad
“Of course the award is such a lovely privilege. Everyone loves being celebrated by their peers. It’s nice to receive an award of this stature, so it does feel like a really big deal. I am very grateful.” But she is quick to say she feels the award is more of a testament to the level of teaching in the department as a whole, beyond her solo contributions.
Elisa, the department and its students feel very lucky to have you as one of our exceptional faculty members.
Elisa will be promoted to full Professor of Teaching as of July 1, 2023.