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Concordia’s Rosemary Reilly: ‘A true pedagogical champion’

The professor in Applied Human Sciences wins major recognition for her innovative teaching practice
June 14, 2016
By Elisabeth Faure

“SALTISE is doing some pretty cutting edge stuff. And to be recognized by them … well, ‘thrilling’ is the best word to describe it!” says Rosemary Reilly. | Photo by David Ward Rosemary Reilly: “This means that I am on the right path.” | Photo by David Ward

On June 3, Rosemary Reilly, associate professor in Concordia’s Department of Applied Human Sciences, received the 2016 university-level SALTISE Award for Best Practices and Pedagogical Innovators.

“This means that I am on the right path,” says Reilly, who obtained a Certificate in Family Life Education from Concordia, after years working in co-operative daycare and nursery school settings.

She went on to earn both an MA and Phd in Educational Psychology, before becoming a part-time faculty member at Concordia in 1991, and a tenure-track faculty member in 2003.

The SALTISE (Supporting Active Learning and Technological Innovation in Studies of Education) award recognizes educators who stand out as leaders in the promotion of academic excellence, use of innovative pedagogies and support of their academic communities.

“SALTISE is doing some pretty cutting edge stuff. And to be recognized by them … well, ‘thrilling’ is the best word to describe it!” says Reilly. “They are a very innovative community of practice instructors and professional development staff from a variety of educational institutions within the greater Montreal area, as well as other regions of Quebec.”

This is what innovation looks like

Reilly says she is constantly trying out new methods of innovation in her role as an educator. “I really am out on a limb, so to speak, in terms of the experimentation I’m doing.”

That experimentation includes techniques like flipped classrooms, where students collect data on their own learning system and then spend time in class feeding back the data they have gathered. “This approach has transformed the class into more than a simulation — it is a real experience but done in the safety of the classroom,” explains Reilly.

She has also introduced the concept of decolonizing research methodologies for youth work diploma students, an approach she says is key, given the number of indigenous children in the child welfare system in Canada.

Her role as graduate program director in the Human Systems Intervention program has allowed her to promote learning outside the classroom. One example is a series of idea cafés she organized with students to facilitate university-wide discussions about Concordia’s strategic plan. “Students gained experience consulting for the libraries, the new Student Success Centre and the first Women’s Faculty Summit.”

Reilly credits her innovative approach with driving her passion for teaching. “It keeps me engaged and motivated to bring my best self to teaching,” she says.

Admiration from her peers

Colleagues are quick to sing Reilly’s praises. “Rosemary is an outstanding professor. She is dedicated to her students and she is a true pedagogical champion in her discipline,” says Philippe Caignon, academic director of the Centre for Teaching and Learning and director of the MA program in Translation Studies.

“When she won, I was ecstatic,” says Caignon, who nominated Reilly for the SALTISE award. “At the same time, I was not surprised. She is truly a deserving instructor.”

André Roy, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science concurs, saying, “I am extremely proud of Rosemary’s work as a leading educator in Applied Human Sciences. Innovation is one of the things we pride ourselves on in the Faculty of Arts and Science, and Rosemary is an educational innovator in every sense of the word.”

Colleague James Gavin, a professor in the Department of Applied Human Sciences and director of the Centre for Human Relations and Community Service, first encountered Reilly as an undergraduate student in the department in the 1980s.

“She is not simply a great classroom teacher, she is a scholar, leader, facilitator and tireless advocate of improved curricula and teaching methods,” he says.

“She has been both an inspiration for students and other faculty, and a tireless colleague who has consistently taken on significant roles in the department and university to advance teaching excellence at Concordia.”

‘Infectious passion’ in the classroom

Former students are also full of praise for Reilly. “Rosemary is a dedicated educator constantly seeking to improve her practice and experiment with new pedagogy,” says Tara Walker, who was a student in two of Reilly’s graduate classes and now teaches at John Abbott College.

According to former student Tristan Khaner, who now works as change management lead for Concordia’s Financial Services Department, “Rosemary deserves recognition for the infectious passion she brings into the classroom. She has always displayed a deep caring for students and graduates.”

Rehab Mahmoud, who earned his MA in Human Systems Intervention at Concordia, calls Reilly’s pedagogy “exquisite.”

“Her constant support to the students and the groups in my program has been remarkable. Her award is well-deserved and well-earned.”

Big plans ahead

Reilly, who recently began a year’s sabbatical, has no intention of slowing down.

“My sabbatical plans include investigating how to incorporate contemplative practices and social justice,” she says. “I am also dedicated to researching my own teaching practice and am completing an action research manual for anyone at Concordia who would like to do the same.”

Reilly also intends to work with Simone de Beauvoir Institute principal, Kimberley Manning on her project to make Concordia a feminist university, and says she’s also “cooking up” a big surprise to open Winterfest 2017 with Catherine Bolton, vice-provost of Teaching and Learning,

One thing’s for sure — no matter what projects she tackles next, Reilly has earned wide support from students and colleagues alike.

“Extraordinary things happen to exceptional people like Rosemary,” says Caignon, adding he has only one piece of advice for Reilly:

“Keep on being amazing!”


Find out more about Concordia’s Centre for Teaching and Learning.



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