Teaching Excellence

Faculty teaching and qualifications
Faculty Teaching Philosophy
Tara Collington

Tara Collington primarily teaches courses in 20th- and 21st-century French literature. In her classes, she encourages students to explore questions of generic hybridity by examining issues such as: the interaction of different sub-genres in the novel; how fiction incorporates historical events; or the inclusion of photographs in a literary text. She also regularly teaches FR297 French Culture & Literature: 1715 to the Present and recently prepared the online version of this course. As a native English-speaker who came up through the core French system in Ontario, she fully appreciates both the challenges and rewards of studying French as a second language. In her third-year Introduction to Translation course, she works with students on identifying and implementing various strategies for French/English translation; this course incorporates daily group activities translating a variety of different types of texts, from newspaper articles, to advertising slogans, to excerpts of literary texts. 

Catherine Dubeau

“Mind is highly inflammable” (Rodolphe de Koninck). My best memories from my own undergraduate and graduate studies are when a professor was so passionate about his/her material that the course was not about filling our heads, but setting our minds “on fire”, thus giving the impulse that would lead us to work insanely hard and give the best we could. I have decided to become a university professor in order to give back what I had received. That being said, I consider myself as an eternal student and am totally dedicated to the ones I have the privilege to meet in my courses. In my language classes, I present the grammar rules in (hopefully!) a very clear and systematic way, and I encourage my students to participate as much as possible, without being afraid of making mistakes — an essential part of the learning process and…well…life. Songs, short videos and a lot of humor make those classes more enjoyable. When comes the time to teach literature, I introduce my students not only to the texts, but also to a period of time, and invite them to see through the writer’s eyes, to discover, with a lot of excitement, how an eighteenth-century writer would understand the world, the human beings, their thoughts, feelings, and actions…. Being a professor in French Studies means far more to me than presenting material. It is connecting with ourselves and the others, throughout the ages, spaces, and cultures. Welcome in my courses !

Valérie Dusaillant-Fernandes

I am teaching courses in 20th- and 21st-century French and Francophone literature (Francophone African Literature, Women’s Writing, French Culture amongst others). I bring to the classroom a combination of lecture, visual components, classroom interactions, oral presentations and applications of concepts learned in class to real world situations.  I am most interested in engaging students in a learning process that develops their personal abilities and promotes effective classroom participation. I also try, as much as I can, to incorporate various active and creative learning techniques in my literature and language classes: poster projects to increased learning, creativity, collaboration and satisfaction amongst students (FR486), creation of poems to foster self-expression in French, and writing a letter from a 19th century character’s eyes (FR297). My literature courses expose the students to a variety of literary forms and genres to encourage critical thinking and analysis as well as emotional responses. All this can be transposed to their real lives.

Nicolas Gauthier

My teaching philosophy is based on a limited number of principles, since I believe it is necessary to be able to adjust myself to the course and to the group of students. Three of them are especially crucial. The first one consists in establishing trust and mutual respect in the classroom, in order to facilitate an active participation from the learners, no matter the format of the class (lecture, workshop, exercises, alone or in groups). The second one consists in trying to give responsibility to the students regarding their learning, by providing them the possibility (and the tools) to progress at their own pace, to evaluate their efforts themselves and to explore and go beyond what was seen in class, if they desire to do so. The third and last principle consists in creating each course according to precise objectives that I wish that we reach as a group. The assessment and the activities are built with these objectives in mind and I try to make sure that they are perfectly clear for the students, by stating them in the syllabus and in the classroom, by supplying rubrics explaining how the works they have to submit will be evaluated and detailed comments explaining the grades that they receive. If the tools may vary (I appreciate the traditional blackboard as much as the more technological equipment in the classroom), as may vary the format of the course (I offer lectures, workshops, oral presentations, group exercises, etc.) and the methods of assessment (more conventional written papers coexist with simulated courses or the creation of pedagogical kits, for example), these principles are always at the core of the conceptualization of my courses and of all my interactions with the students.

Élise Lepage

I believe that teaching and learning are reciprocal, which is why I value discussions in small groups or as a whole class. I like to challenge my students and myself by creating varied and innovative forms of evaluations that assess not only an understanding of the content and critical thinking, but also creativity – a very much needed quality in a rapidly changing and knowledge-based society. I encourage my students to reflect upon real world examples or questions that are particularly dear to them as individuals.

Rocky Penate

Whether teaching topics in grammar, literature or culture, I strive to highlight the many connections between the object being studied and students’ lives. Rather than explaining language as a system of abstract signs, for instance, I present it as one of many tools that help us express ourselves and understand others. It is therefore essential that students have ample opportunity to talk and write about their interests and ideas – in French, of course. Similarly, when teaching topics in culture or literature, I favour activities that solicit students’ personal reactions to a particular work: a short story by Flaubert, a volume of Asterix’s adventures, a song by Charlebois and so on. Through this approach, I hope to bring my students to a better understanding of the French language, of francophone cultures and hopefully of their own, personal experience.

Guy Poirier

My training in pre-1800 French literature helped me reflect, among other things, on how students were taught in the Early Modern period. If we put aside the burdens encountered by college students in early 16th-Century Paris (fleas, diseases, and worse!), Rabelais and Montaigne, to name only these two humanists, had interesting perspectives on education we unfortunately forgot. I would only quote a passage from one of Montaigne’s Essays to make my point:

Michel de Montaigne
“I would also urge that care be taken to choose a guide (instructor) with a well-made rather than a well-filled head; that both these qualities should be required of him, but more particularly character and understanding than learning; and that he should go about his job in a novel way” (Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays, I: 26, D. M. Frame, ed. & transl.)
Cynthia Tremblay

In my class, I strive to place the emphasis on meaningful, authentic activities and collaboration.  I see the classroom as a community in which learning is optimized through a shared sense of responsibility and participants benefit from interacting not only with the teacher but also with their peers. My approach is also one in which culture and language are intertwined, where students gain knowledge not only of the language studied but also of the culture it is part of. In my view, language is a social interaction and cannot be separated from the context in which it is conveyed. 

Svetlana Kaminskaia

I perceive myself as a mediator between the discipline I teach and the students, as someone who helps them discover something new from something old. In fact, this is my favourite way of presenting new material – challenging students just enough so that they become curious about the new but not overwhelmed by the unknown. In this way, the learning process becomes a discovery process where, at the end, students can draw their own conclusions. When I teach, I always try to emphasize how the subject matter of a course relates to everyday life and I like using metaphors and comparisons in order to convey my message in the most efficient way. Students’ enthusiasm and creativity are very valued in my classes, because they reflect one of the main goals of getting an education - to find different ways of looking at a problem and solving it.

Nicole Nolette

In teaching language and literature, I maintain that students learn by actively participating and that the classroom should be the place to extend on readings and individual work done at home. During my undergraduate and graduate studies, I facilitated leadership workshops and even now, remain convinced of the value of student-led learning. At Harvard University, I trained as a facilitator with the Pre-Texts method, an egalitarian pedagogy that promotes high-level reading and civic action. In Pre-Texts workshops, the facilitator assigns complex literary texts that participants discover while creating their own artistic interpretations. I now understand my part in the continuous learning process shared with undergraduate and graduate students as that of a facilitator for thinking about the role played by the arts in our society and for creating new capacities for an uncertain future.