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Four Fine Arts instructors earn Distinguished Teaching Awards

Jessica Bleuer, Michael Pinsonnault, Sandra Huber and Molly-Claire Gillett are this year’s awardees
May 1, 2024

Faculty of Fine Arts at Concordia University awarded the Distinguished Teaching Awards, recognizing their contributions to education. Jessica Bleuer, Department of Creative Arts Therapies received the Established Award for full-time faculty member, Michael Pinsonneault, part-time professor, Department of Music, was posthumously honored with the Established Award for part-time faculty member, while Sandra Huber, assistant professor and Molly-Claire Gillett, scholar-in-residence, Interdisciplinary Studies and Practices in the Fine Arts, were jointly awarded the Emerging Award.

For Elaine Paterson, associate dean, Academic Programmes and Pedagogy, who chaired this year’s selection committee, the content, and the sheer quantity of student testimonials in each nomination speaks to how much students appreciate the quality of their educators and the positive impact they have.

"Two things struck me about the 2024 winners. First, their absolute commitment to their students, and their willingness to go above and beyond to support, encourage, and guide their learning. Students recognize their exceptional professors and the positive impact they have,” remarks Paterson.

“The second common feature among this year’s winners is their ability not only to adapt to change, but also to embrace it as an opportunity to explore and adopt innovative teaching methods, particularly in response to external factors such as the pandemic”, she reflects.

Paterson emphasizes that this award not only allows the Faculty to recognize teaching excellence but also opens doors for further recognition, such as the President's Excellence in Teaching Awards (PETA) and eventually external teaching awards such as the 3M National Teaching Fellowship.

‘Their teaching methods exemplify experiential learning’

"What stands out about this year's winners is their embodiment of the values that are core to our mission: they are committed to addressing sustainability and fostering inclusive and equitable learning environments to support our students' academic and personal growth, says Annie Gérin, dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts.

“Their teaching methods also exemplify experiential learning, providing Fine Arts students with hands-on innovative opportunities at various stages of their education,” she adds.

Jessica Bleuer

Jessica Bleuer: Established Award (Full-time)

Bleuer is a full-time lecturer in the Department of Creative Arts Therapies. The student testimonials spoke to the care that Jessica demonstrates to her learners, and her ability to cultivate individualized relationships with each student.

“I geek out about experiential and innovative pedagogy and inclusive and accessible teaching practices and so I am so beyond touched to receive an award that recognizes my love for this profession,” says Bleuer.

“Teaching is such a deeply relational practice, and I would love to share this recognition with my students who are beyond inspiring and will be changing the world in many impactful ways. I also want to recognize my teaching colleagues, who have taught me about compassion in teaching and conscientiousness towards equity addressing classrooms; I am the teacher I am today because of your examples.”

“I really want to thank the committee and everyone who has made this recognition possible. I think I share this sentiment with all my colleagues at Concordia; we teach because we LOVE it, and we spend many more hours than we might at any other job because we believe in its importance. To be recognized for the time and dedication, is such a beautiful and unexpected gift; thank you!”

Michael Pinsonneault

Michael Pinsonneault: Established Award (Part-time)

Michael Pinsonneault, a part-time faculty member in the Department of Music, was posthumously awarded the Established Award. Testimonials from students, faculty, and CUPFA representatives underscored his exceptional teaching, innovative methods, generous mentorship and exceptional human qualities, which "changed lives". One of Pinssoneault’s students said, "(he) taught me that in this life there are a multiplicity of paths, no right or wrong way to walk them, and to trust the one that you’re on.”

Eldad Tsabary, associate dean of Research and Graduate Studies at the Faculty, who created the Love and Light Award in Michael Pinsonneault’s memory, commends his profound impact as an educator, which extended beyond the classroom and greatly influenced "the community's spiritual and ethical fabric."

Tsabary explains that the Love and Light Award is a heartfelt tribute to Pinsonneault’s legacy at Concordia and embodies the essence of his approach to education, characterized by "profound compassion, support, and an unwavering commitment to student success." The award provides financial support to students and champions some of the values Pinsonneault held dear: mutual support, kindness, and community building. Funds for his Distinguished Teaching Award will be directed to the Love and Light Award in honor of Pinsonneault.

“Michael's educational philosophy was characterized by a rare fusion of enthusiasm and empathy, which he brought to all his interactions. He possessed an innate ability to make students feel reassured and valued, ensuring they felt secure in their educational paths and personal growth,” he elaborates.

“His teaching style was deeply informative, structured, and incredibly inspiring, enabling students to explore the vast possibilities within sound and music dynamically and confidently.”

“Michael's courses, especially in songwriting and electroacoustics, were, beyond lessons in music, lessons in life, teaching students to embrace their creative instincts while fostering a supportive and inclusive environment. His approachability made him a beloved mentor and collaborator,” he adds.

From left to right: Molly-Claire Gillet & Sandra Huber

Emerging Award: Emerging Award (awarded jointly)

Sandra Huber, assistant professor, and Molly-Claire Gillett, scholar-in-residence in Interdisciplinary Studies and Practices in the Fine Arts, were jointly awarded the Emerging Award for their innovative teaching and commitment to students. Their ability to craft innovative materials and assessments, both online and in-person, were praised by students, as were their efforts in redesigning the FFAR250 course to address decolonization, equity, diversity, and inclusion. Testimonials from students and colleagues alike emphasized how Gillett and Huber fostered collaboration among students and worked together to ensure transformative learning experiences in Fine Arts.

"We're truly honored to receive this award and to continue the feminist and creative legacy of pedagogy that has shaped FFAR250," they stated. "This achievement is a testament to the dedication of our teaching team, coordinators, and scholars-in-residence who have contributed to crafting the course over the past decade. It feels fitting to receive this award collaboratively as we conclude the current stage of the course redesign."

Kicking off the fall semester with three keywords—engaging, critiquing, and working—they underscored the importance of imparting skills such as deep listening, giving and receiving feedback, while treating creation as labor, and fostering communities of practice. "These skills extend beyond the classroom, shaping our interactions with students, colleagues, and various stakeholders across the Faculty of Fine Arts," they further elaborated.

For them, the collaborative nature of this award echoes the course's development as a product of a 'massive network', which “creates space for students to move meaningfully across disciplines and produce work that is boundary-breaking and inspired,” they concluded.

Stay tuned this fall for the upcoming call for nominations for the 2025 awards cycle.

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