Laurier Celebrates Student Teaching Excellence

Laurier honours outstanding achievement with Student Teaching Awards of Excellence 

Wilfrid Laurier University is recognizing five outstanding student educators with the Student Teaching Awards of Excellence. The annual awards program honours undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students who have contributed to exceptional learning experiences for Laurier students through thoughtful and intentional teaching approaches. 

“We’re thrilled to be celebrating these five students, who have gone above and beyond to support, guide and inspire their peers through the challenges of the past few years,” says Mary Wilson, Laurier’s vice-provost of Teaching and Learning.

“They’ve established themselves as trusted educators, mentors and leaders, helping both undergraduate and graduate students build the foundations for successful learning, while pushing them to strive for more. They truly exemplify Laurier’s commitment to student success.”

Recipients of the 2022 Laurier Student Teaching Awards of Excellence

Noah Gauthier, Anthropology and Political Science 

Undergraduate category

Even while studying with a full course load toward a double major in Anthropology and Political Science, fourth-year student Noah Gauthier made time to work as an instructional assistant for eight sections of the first-year course Introduction to Anthropology, a teaching assistant for two Political Science courses, and a research assistant for a professor.

While Gauthier is ambitious about his academic and professional growth, he has also consistently put his students first, encouraging them to pursue their goals and supporting them through challenges, including finding ways to reduce students’ anxieties in a second-year course focused on quantitative research methods in political science and working one-on-one with an international student on his English writing skills.

As a teaching and instructional assistant, Gauthier has put the lessons he learned through elective courses in the Faculty of Education to use, incorporating a variety of teaching methods, including Indigenous approaches to learning, to best meet the needs of a diverse group of learners. 

“I am elated that the university has chosen me among many great applicants to receive such an honour,” he says. “My achievements would not have been possible without the support of students, faculty and administrators from the Political Science and Anthropology departments.”
Noah Gauthier
Mackenzie Wauters

Mackenzie Wauters, English and History

Undergraduate category

Mackenzie Wauters, a fourth-year English and History student, has worked as a first-year peer academic coach within Laurier’s Transition and Learning Services team for the past two years, leading one-on-one consultations and group workshops with first-year students on everything from time management to study tips and presentation skills.

Beyond delivering exceptional programming, she has developed a reputation for her unique ability to make students feel welcome and at ease, by speaking to them as peers, listening carefully to their needs and “normalizing the struggle” students face as they transition from high school to university.

Wauters’ success supporting and retaining Laurier students led to her promotion in 2021 to a newly created senior peer academic coach position, through which she provides leadership and mentorship to fellow coaches within the unit. Once she graduates, Wauters hopes to pursue her master’s degree in education with a focus on student development, inspired in large part by her experiences as a peer academic coach.

“I am extremely honoured to be the undergraduate recipient of the 2022 Laurier Student Teaching Award of Excellence and appreciate the continued support from my students, colleagues and supervisors,” she says. “The transition from high school to university is always difficult and it became even more so due to the unstable learning environment created as a result of the pandemic. I am touched that I was able to make a difference in my students' lives and I am grateful I had the opportunity to ease their transition and normalize the struggle.”

“These five students have established themselves as trusted educators, mentors and leaders, helping both undergraduate and graduate students build the foundations for successful learning, while pushing them to strive for more. They truly exemplify Laurier’s commitment to student success.”

John Tolentino,  Social Work

Master's category

Within the Faculty of Social Work, John Tolentino, a Master of Social Work student, has established himself as a trusted leader, mentor and advocate. In his roles as a guest lecturer, committee member, workshop facilitator and student, he is known for his passion and commitment to promoting social justice and challenging inequities, while remaining respectful, supportive and non-judgmental.

For the past two years, Tolentino has served as a guest lecturer on the topic of narrative therapy in two sections of Practice with Individuals, a third-year undergraduate Social Work course. He incorporated active learning exercises such as role play, using case studies from his own experiences as a social worker as examples, and provided space for thoughtful discussions.

He is also an active volunteer on a variety of committees and groups at Laurier, including the Equity Committee, Community and Learning Development Sub-Committee, NIRE (Normalizing Intercultural Relations in Education) Committee, Queer Caucus and Faculty of Social Work Graduate Student Group. Tolentino also co-facilitated a workshop on microaggressions.

Both inside and outside the classroom, Tolentino prioritizes conversations about privilege and oppression, where students are both challenged in their biases and assumptions and supported in their growth.

“I am truly humbled to be the recipient of the Student Teaching Award of Excellence,” he says. “Given the heightened sociopolitical and racial climate we are living in, to be recognized as a first-generation Filipino-Canadian student teacher is an immense honour and privilege. I am delighted to have had the opportunity to contribute to an equitable learning and teaching environment at Laurier.”
John Tolentino
Paul Lefebvre

John Paul Lefebvre, Psychology 

Doctoral category

Paul Lefebvre, a PhD student in Developmental Psychology, is frequently called upon to serve as a teaching assistant for statistics courses at the undergraduate, master’s and doctoral levels, in part because of the unique strategies he’s developed to help students embrace and succeed at the challenging subject.

By addressing the root anxiety students feel about the subject, Lefebvre has helped students master material and apply it, including in graduate student research. He does this by building a friendly relationship with students, encouraging them to ask for help when they need it, and offering detailed, constructive and supportive feedback on exams and assignments. He is also enthusiastic about the material and helps students see its potential uses, especially in their research projects. 

Beyond his role as a teaching assistant, Lefebvre has also served as a guest lecturer in several courses at Laurier. This summer, he will take on his first role as a course instructor, leading a master’s level statistics course at Laurier.

“This award is a testament to the students and faculty at Laurier, who have been a constant source of inspiration and motivation to grow as a teacher,” he says. “Getting to learn and teach here has been a privilege and being recognized by such an amazing community means more to me that I can say.”

Eric Story, History

Doctoral category

Whether he’s teaching undergraduates about the history of Canada since Confederation or assisting in the first-year Great Battles in History course, History PhD student Eric Story strives to find ways to help students make meaningful connections with the material they’re learning.

As an instructor and teaching assistant, he works to create a caring and welcoming environment where students feel comfortable asking questions and sharing their thoughts and experiences. When Story plans his lectures, his students’ interests, backgrounds and abilities inform the content he focuses on, as well as the teaching methods he uses.

Asking students to study history through primary source materials is one way he’s helped students make a personal connection with history. By learning about the lives of Indigenous veterans of the First World War through disability pension files and Department of Indian Affairs’ veterans’ files, for example, students see history through the eyes of individuals whose perspectives are often missing from history textbooks.

Outside of the classroom, Story has also been a dedicated mentor and supervisor to nearly 30 undergraduate research assistants through his role as coordinator of the Copp Scholars Program at the Laurier Centre for the Study of Canada.

“I was completely taken aback by my nomination and even more surprised when I received confirmation that I had won a teaching award,” he says. “This award is as much mine as it is my students’. I could not have done it without them. Their curiosity and enthusiasm in the classroom, as well as their humour and company, was what kept me returning to the classroom every week excited to teach.”

Eric Story