Thursday, May 4, 2023

Teaching with kindness and care

An instructor writes on a white board in front of the class.

By Jon Parsons. This article was originally published on Waterloo News.

What does it mean to teach with kindness and care?

That’s the central theme of the 14th annual University of Waterloo Teaching and Learning Conference, taking place May 3-4.

Waterloo’s Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE) organizes the annual conference, which features sessions and speakers from UWaterloo and other post-secondary institutions.

The conference theme on kindness and care is noteworthy in the present-day context, given the disruption caused by the pandemic to the university experience for so many students and the rapidly changing expectation of what higher education should be.

There are significant challenges for students, and for instructors as well, with respect to stress, burnout and mental health. The conference sets out to explore approaches to teaching and learning that can create more compassionate and inclusive educational experiences, with mutual trust and respect between instructors and students at the foundation of this work.

Indigenous pedagogies keynote

The conference’s keynote speaker, Dr. Barbara Moktthewenkwe Wall, applies an Indigenous pedagogy that embeds kindness and care.

Wall is an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation of Shawnee. She is an assistant professor of Indigenous environmental studies and sciences at Trent University’s Chanie Wenjack School for Indigenous Studies.

Dr. Barbara Moktthewenkwe Wall, assistant professor of Indigenous environmental studies and sciences at Trent University’s Chanie Wenjack School for Indigenous Studies.

Dr. Barbara Moktthewenkwe Wall, assistant professor of Indigenous environmental studies and sciences at Trent University’s Chanie Wenjack School for Indigenous Studies.

“Part of creating kindness and care in the classroom, as I understand it, goes against the standard hierarchy of the academy,” Wall says. “Typically, it’s the instructor who is the expert and the only one that’s going to be sharing knowledge. Teaching with kindness and care is about acknowledging that we’re all learners, and that we all bring knowledge to the classroom.”

Rather than teaching and learning being about students as passive recipients and the professor as a fount of knowledge, Indigenous pedagogies are more about students being actively involved in the co-creation of knowledge. It is an approach that sets out to flatten hierarchies and empower students as agents in their own educational experience.

But Wall’s approach carries a broader systemic critique as well, in the sense that it is also about the types of knowledge that are valued in the university.

“We’re becoming a global society and our institutions need to incorporate ways of knowing beyond just European or Western systems,” Wall continues. “Many of our students carry those non-dominant cultural markers, perspectives and knowledge systems. And that’s why I think it’s so important that part of teaching with kindness and care is a recognition and inclusion of that plurality of knowledge systems.”

Bringing it into the classroom

Asked what instructors can do to begin incorporating Indigenous pedagogies into their own teaching practice, Wall says a great place to start is to connect with the Indigenous educational developers working in the University’s Centre for Teaching Excellence.

“But then what do you do next? As a non-Indigenous educator, how do you start to feel comfortable incorporating practices that might not be familiar to you? I think the use of narrative and storytelling can be a comfortable way to approach things,” she continues. “Rather than having a formal lecture, maybe you start by telling your own story, your own journey, interwoven with the information and the specific knowledge that you’re going to share.”

Another aspect that Wall sees as central to an Indigenous-informed pedagogy is experiential learning, which she says makes the educational experience more real for students.

Wall also suggests any instructors interested in Indigenous pedagogies need to create choice for students. But along with choice, “it’s also about setting clear boundaries and being transparent about expectations,” she says. “I try to be very upfront with students, not only about the purpose of any assignment, but by having clear rubrics. I think that’s not only kind to the students, but also to myself as an instructor.”

“Indigenous pedagogy as I see it is all about having the educational experience be relational and built on relationships, and I think that same relational aspect is at the heart of teaching with kindness and care.”

Learn more about the sessions and speakers on the website for this year’s Teaching and Learning Conference.

Waterloo recognized with Spirit of Community award

Representatives from the University of Waterloo and the United Way stand together on stage with the awards.

By Namish Modi. 

On Thursday, April 20, the United Way Waterloo Region communities (United Way WRC) recognized the University of Waterloo for its outstanding contributions in helping develop a better community.

The University received the 2022 Spirit of Community Award in recognition of its robust fundraising campaign and programs like Co-op for Community. Co-op for Community is a unique partnership between United Way WRC and the University. The donor-funded program creates meaningful co-op jobs for students from all disciplines. The students work at local non-profits, affiliated with United Way, who need talent. Several of the non-profits are grassroots organizations. 

Judene Pretti and Kate Dal Castel with United Way CEO Joan Fisk.

Judene Pretti and Kate Dal Castel with United Way CEO Joan Fisk.

Donations made to Co-op for Community go directly to supporting Waterloo co-op students’ salaries. Co-operative and Experiential Education (CEE) leaders Judene Pretti, director of Business Services, and Kate Dal Castel, senior development officer, accepted the award on behalf of the University at the awards ceremony in Cambridge. 

“There has never been a more important time for our community to tap into innovative talent and for our students to learn more about the community where they study and not-for-profits,” says Pretti.

“This award reflects the partnership between the University of Waterloo and United Way. Through philanthropy and programs like Co-op for Community, you see how Waterloo staff, faculty and students care deeply about the community and how United Way and its partner organizations can benefit from student talent.” 

"Contributing to the community through our co-op program is very important to us here at CEE," says Judene Pretti, Director of CEE Business Services. "We appreciate being recognized by the United Way and know our partnership remains extremely beneficial to our students and to the community as a whole."

The Spirit of Community Award honours an individual, group, organization or agency that personifies exceptional community spirit, team spirit and generosity through their partnership with United Way WRC. The presenter and sponsor of the award is Paul Morris, Senior Investment and Wealth Advisor, Morris Wealth Management, RBC Dominion Securities.

Since the year 2000, Waterloo's fundraising campaign has contributed $4.5 million to the United Way. The University’s United Way Committee of volunteers recruits ambassadors and organizes several awareness events like “Go Red Day” and “Souper Tuesday soup day.”  

“On behalf of all of us at United Way and all those we serve, we especially want to acknowledge the University of Waterloo’s partnership through the co-op for community program, the core committee and the ambassadors. They work tirelessly to organize a successful employee giving campaign, retiree campaign and raising awareness through events and messaging,” says Anjie Dietrich, manager of individual and major giving relationships at United Way WRC. 

Dietrich recognized Waterloo’s support, caring and determination that helps the Region’s most vulnerable during unprecedented times.  

In 2022, major donations were made to Co-op for Community. Through the Giving Tuesday initiative and large donations, the fund continues to enable students to make a difference in the community. 

New benefit rates went into effect May 1

A message from Human Resources.

On May 1 of each year, the University’s extended health, dental, life insurance (Life) and long-term disability (LTD) benefits are typically subject to a contract renewal. Where applicable, new rates are applied, and employee deductions processed.

Participation in the University’s benefits program is mandatory for all eligible employees. Please refer to the employee Benefits section of the Human Resources website for more information.

How are new rates calculated?

The rates for extended health and dental benefits are set for budget purposes as well as cost sharing that applies to part-time employees based on our expected claims and GreenShield's charges for administration. With GreenShield, the charges for administration are less than they were with Canada Life and are guaranteed for a set period of time.

The Life and LTD benefits are insured, and premium rates are set each year with Sun Life Financial. Based on our past claims experience and the financial status of the plan, Sun Life Financial requires an increase in our premium rates for the Life insurance benefit effective May 1, 2023. Due to the implementation of LTD with Sun Life Financial on May 1, 2022, our current premium rates are guaranteed for a defined period, and as such, there are no changes effective May 1, 2023.

What will the new benefits rates be?

The table below reflects the rates effective May 1, 2023.


Monthly Rates

Change from Last Year

Cost Sharing

Extended health

$71.88 single

$229.38 family

(includes tax)

Increase of 0.9 per cent

100 per cent University-paid (shared if part-time)


$55.00 single

$165.51 family

(includes tax)

Increase of 12.9 per cent

100 per cent University-paid (shared if part-time)

Life Insurance

$0.139 per $1,000 of coverage (excludes tax)

Increase of 10 per cent

1 x earnings is paid by the university, 2 and 3 x earnings is 66.7 per cent paid by the University

Long-term disability (LTD)

1.015 per cent of earnings

(excludes tax)

No change

100 per cent employee-paid

Some notes: the year’s Maximum Pensionable Earnings (YMPE) for 2023 is $66,600. The maximum insured salary effective May 1, 2023, is $192,454 (an increase of 1 per cent from last year’s maximum of $190,549).

Optional Life insurance (employee coverage above 3 x earnings and spousal coverage) rates remain unchanged for the upcoming year.

Other information

Employee pension contribution rates were increased over a three-year period commencing May 1, 2020. There are no changes required effective May 1, 2023; however, these rates do change through time.

Please visit the Human Resources website to understand more about your benefits and pension arrangements. For questions regarding these rates, please contact Human Resources at

Star Wars Day and other notes

Star Wars collectibles and memorabilia arranged on a mantlepiece.

Your humble editor might set up a diorama on his mantelpiece every May the 4th.

Today is a special day for Star Wars geeks nerds fans the world galaxy over, who will be heard saying "May the 4th be with you" to one another, quoting a variant of the space opera franchise's famous catchphrase, "may the Force be with you." Funny, right? While people have been making this pun as far back as 1979, it wasn't until 2011 that semi-official "Star Wars Day" fan celebrations started taking place (in Toronto, of all places!) with special film screenings, cosplay, and other activities, and once Disney completed its purchase of Lucasfilm in 2012, they picked it up and ran with it. Meanwhile, other fans will celebrate "Orthodox Star Wars Day" on May 25, traditionally marking the original release date of the first Star Wars film on May 25, 1977. It's a whole thing. And, of course, watch out for "Revenge of the Fifth" on Friday, May 5.

The University's deans dressed up as characters from Star Wars in 2018.

Who can forget when the Deans dressed up as Star Wars characters in support of the United Way in 2018?

Meanwhile, on a campus not so far, far away:

The 14th annual University of Waterloo Teaching and Learning Conference is set to take place today in the Science Teaching Complex and Federation Hall. The 2023 conference theme is Teaching and Learning with Kindness and Care.

Barbara Moktthewenkwe Wall, Professor in the Indigenous Environmental Studies and Sciences Program, and Director, PhD Studies, in the Chanie Wenjack School for Indigenous Studies, at Trent University, is the keynote speaker, and Sanjeev Bedi (Professor and Director, IDEAs Clinic) and Tamara Maciel (Program Director in the School of Anatomy),  will each recreate a successful instructional approach in the Igniting Our Practice plenary session, which showcases some of the excellent teaching being done on the Waterloo campus.

Ammonia workshop banner.

The Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy (WISE) is hosting an ammonia workshop comprising speakers from academia both nationally and globally on Tuesday, May 9.

The workshop brings together an academic forum intended to encourage the exchange of ideas that will help create a roadmap to guide the future of ammonia and its applications in Canada. The workshop's focus is to facilitate collaboration in ammonia research, the exploration of opportunities for partnership, and the integration of efforts across stakeholder groups.

The event runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and takes place in EIT 3142.

Upcoming office closure

The Centre for Teaching Excellence will be closed today for the annual Teaching and Learning Conference.

Link of the day

May the Fourth be with you

When and Where 

Warrior Recreation Registration for the spring term is now open.

Waterloo Warriors Youth Camps. Spring and Summer camps available for Boys and Girls ages 5-18. Baseball, Basketball, Football, Volleyball, Hockey and Multi-Sport and Games. Register today.

Student Health Pharmacy in the basement of the Student Life Centre is now offering Covid booster shots (Pfizer and Moderna) and flu shots. Call 519-746-4500 or extension 33784 for an appointment. Walk-ins always welcome.

Tim Hortons Smile Cookie Week, Monday, May 1 to Sunday, May 7 at Tim Hortons DC and SLC. All proceeds will be going to United Way.

Speak Like a Scholar applications open, Monday, May 1 to Friday, May 26.

Teaching and Learning Conference, Thursday, May 4, Science Teaching Complex and Federation Hall.

2023 Darcy Lecture"Subseafloor Hydrogeology: Moving beyond watersheds," Thursday, May 4, 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., EIT 1015.

Red Dress Day at UWaterloo, Friday, May 5, BMH Green, 3:00 p.m.

Spring 2023 PhD graduates dinner reception, Friday, May 5, 7:30 p.m., Fed Hall.

Dissertation Boot Camp applications open, Monday, May 8.

Deadline to register for Centre for Extended Learning (CEL) "Getting Ready to Facilitate Online Courses: TA Training – Spring 2023" course, Monday, May 22.

When and Where to get support 

Students can visit the Student Success Office online for supports including academic development, international student resources, immigration consulting, leadership development, exchange and study abroad, and opportunities to get involved.

Instructors looking for targeted support for developing online components for blended learning courses, transitioning remote to fully online courses, revising current online courses, and more please visit Agile Development | Centre for Extended Learning | University of Waterloo (

Faculty, staff, post-doc and graduate student instructors can find upcoming teaching and learning workshops, self-directed modules and recordings of previous events on Centre for Teaching Excellence Workshops and Events page.

Instructors can access the EdTech Hub to find support on Waterloo’s centrally supported EdTech tools. The Hub is supported by members of IST’s Instructional Technologies and Media ServicesCentre for Teaching ExcellenceCentre for Extended Learning and subject matter experts from other campus areas.

Supports are available for employees returning to campus. Visit IST’s Hybrid Work and Technology guidelines and workplace protocols to assist with the transition.

Occupational Health can provide support related to medical leave, workplace accommodations and anything else related to your health and wellbeing. For professional support or counselling, contact our Employee & Family Assistance provider (EFAPHomewood Health at 1-800-663-1142. They are available 24/7 for urgent or non-urgent matters. Their website also offers helpful resources.

Employees who need support can contact

Students with permanent, temporary and suspected disabilities and disabling conditions (medical conditions, injuries, or trauma from discrimination, violence, or oppression) can register with AccessAbility Services for academic accommodations (classroom accommodations, testing accommodations, milestone accommodations).

Instructors can visit AccessAbility Services' Faculty and Staff web page for information about the Instructor/Faculty role in the accommodation process. Instructors/Faculty members are legally required to accommodate students with disabilities. AccessAbility Services (AAS) is here to help you understand your obligations, and to offer services and resources to help you facilitate accommodations.

Did you know that the Writing and Communication Centre offers many in-person and virtual services to support you with any writing or communication project? This term we've added The Write Spot: a new student space in South Campus hall, complete with bookable workspaces, drop-ins with our peer tutors, and free coffee and tea. We also have one-to-one appointments with our writing and communication advisors and peer tutors, email tutoring for grads and undergrads, drop-ins at Dana Porter Libraryonline workshopswriting groupsEnglish conversation practice, and even custom in-class workshops. For any communication project, the Writing and Communication Centre is here to support you.

Research Ethics: Find yourself with an ethical question, unsure if your work requires an ethics review, or need advice about putting together a research ethics application? Reach out to one of our friendly staff by booking a consultation or email us with your questions.

Co-op students can get help finding a job and find supports to successfully work remotely, develop new skills, access wellness and career information, and contact a co-op or career advisor.

The Centre for Career Action (CCA) has services and programs to support undergrads, grad students, postdocs, alumni, and employees in figuring out what they value, what they’re good at, and how to access meaningful work, co-op, volunteer, or graduate/professional school opportunities. Questions about CCA's services? Live chat, call 519-888-4047, or stop by our front desk in the Tatham Centre 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Drop-in to in-person Warrior Study Halls on Thursdays from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in DC and DP. Join a Peer Success Coach to set goals and work independently or in groups each week.

Renison's English Language Institute continues to offer virtual events and workshops to help students practice their English language skills.

If you feel overwhelmed or anxious and need to talk to somebody, please contact the University’s Campus Wellness services, either Health Services or  Counselling Services. You can also contact the University's Centre for Mental Health Research and TreatmentGood2Talk is a post-secondary student helpline available to all students.

The Library is here to help, both in person and online. Our spaces are open for access to book stacks, study spaces, computers/printers, and the IST Help Desk. For in-depth support, meet one-to-one with Librarians, Special Collections & Archives and Geospatial Centre staff. Visit the Library’s home page to access our online resources for anywhere, anytime learning and research.

The Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo (FAUW) continues to advocate for its members. Check out the FAUW blog for more information.

The University of Waterloo Staff Association (UWSA) continues to advocate for its members. Check out the UWSA blog for more information.

The Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion & Anti-racism (EDI-R) works with students, faculty and staff across campus to advance equity and anti-racism through evidence-based policies, practices and programs. If you have a concern related to anti-racism and/or equity, please complete our intake form.

The Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office (SVPRO) supports all members of the University of Waterloo campus community who have experienced, or been impacted, by sexual violence. This includes all students, staff, faculty and visitors on the main campus, the satellite campuses, and at the affiliated and federated Waterloo Institutes and Colleges. For support, email: or visit the SVPRO website.

The Office of Indigenous Relations is a central hub that provides guidance, support, and resources to all Indigenous and non-Indigenous campus community members and oversees the University's Indigenization strategy.

The Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre, based at United College, provides support and resources for Indigenous students, and educational outreach programs for the broader community, including lectures, and events.

WUSA supports for students:

Peer support - MATESGlow CentreRAISEWomen’s Centre - Click on one of the links to book an appointment either in person or online for the term.

Food Support Service food hampers are currently available from the Turnkey Desk 24/7 in the Student Life Centre. Drop-off locations are also open again in SLC, DC, DP, SCH, and all residences.

Co-op Connection all available online. 

Centre for Academic Policy Support - CAPS is here to assist Waterloo undergraduates throughout their experience in navigating academic policy in the instances of filing petitions, grievances and appeals. Please contact them at

WUSA Student Legal Protection Program - Seeking legal counsel can be intimidating, especially if it’s your first time facing a legal issue. The legal assistance helpline provides quick access to legal advice in any area of law, including criminal. Just call 1-833-202-4571

Empower Me is a confidential mental health and wellness service that connects students with qualified counsellors 24/7. They can be reached at 1-833-628-5589.

GSA-UW supports for graduate students: 

The Graduate Student Association (GSA-UW) supports students’ academic and social experience and promotes their well-being.

Advising and Support - The GSA advises graduate students experiencing challenges and can help with navigating university policies & filing a grievance, appeal, or petition.

Mental Health covered by the Health Plan - The GSA Health Plan now has an 80 per cent coverage rate (up to $800/year) for Mental Health Practitioners. Your plan includes coverage for psychologists, registered social workers, psychotherapists, and clinical counselors.

Dental Care - The GSA Dental Plan covers 60 to 70 per cent of your dental costs and by visiting dental professionals who are members of the Studentcare Networks, you can receive an additional 20 to 30 per cent coverage.

Student Legal Protection Program - Your GSA fees give you access to unlimited legal advice, accessible via a toll-free helpline: +1-833-202-4571. This advice covers topics including housing disputes, employment disputes, and disputes with an academic institution.

The Graduate House: Open Monday to Tuesday 11:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and Wednesday to Friday 11:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. We’re open to all students, faculty, staff, and community members. The Graduate House is a community space run by the GSA-UW. We’re adding new items to the menu. Graduate students who paid their fees can get discounts and free coffee.