Trent University Honours Outstanding Educators at Celebration of Teaching Excellence 

April 12, 2019

Annual event recognizes passionate and influential educators 

Left to Right: Susan Yates, Wesley Burr, Sarah McNeilly

Trent University honoured exemplary educators in Mathematics, Business, Cultural Studies and Media Studies, International Development Studies and Biology during today’s annual Celebration of Teaching Excellence. 

Faculty, staff, students, and alumni gathered at in the Great Hall of Champlain College to honour the 2019 recipients, all recognized as passionate and influential educators. 

“Trent stands out as a university that provides a transformative experience while supporting and fostering student engagement and success,” said Dr. Leo Groarke, president and vice-chancellor at Trent University. “We congratulate all of this year’s teaching award recipients and nominees – the record number of nominations submitted this year is confirmation of the exemplary teaching and learning going on at our Peterborough and Durham GTA campuses.” 

The following teachers were presented with a 2019 teaching award: 

Wesley Burr (Mathematics): Symons Award for Excellence in Teaching 

Sheldene Simola (School of Business): Award for Educational Leadership and Innovation 

Sarah McNeilly (Cultural Studies and Media Studies): Award for Excellence in Teaching Assistance 

Sam Grey (International Development Studies): CUPE 3908-1 Award for Excellence in Teaching 

Susan Yates (Biology): Award for Excellence in Online Teaching 

Profiles on each recipient including recipient quotes can be found below. 


Wesley Burr, 2019 Recipient of the Symons Award for Excellence in Teaching 
Dr. Wesley Burr, an assistant professor in mathematics, is recognized as a thoughtful, approachable, and attentive educator who stimulates curiosity and inspires and challenges students to do their best work in mathematics and statistics. Professor Burr is lauded for his warmth, wisdom, compassion and humour; his dynamic and interactive approaches to teaching; his demonstrated commitment to the success and wellbeing of every student; and his innovative development and use of technological tools and learning supports. His students also appreciate his kindness, patience, and humility; his concern, care, and respect for students; and how he regularly adapts his teaching style and the content of his courses to the individualized learning needs of the students. 

In learning about the award, Prof. Burr said, “I am deeply honoured to have been selected as recipient of the 2019 Symons Award. I consider teaching and dissemination of knowledge my life's work, and I take great joy in having had the chance to provide students with skills and knowledge needed for success in both their personal and professional lives.” 

Sheldene Simola, 2019 Recipient of the Award for Educational Leadership and Innovation 
Dr. Sheldene Simola, School of Business, is recognized as an inspiring educator and role model that has influenced and inspired past, current, and future generations of business leaders. She is highly regarded for creating learning environments that are active, interactive, reflective, and experiential, and that recognize and flexibly engage with the particular needs and goals of individual students. Professor Simola is known for her ongoing innovation in course development and renewal, her care for the development, well-being, and success of her students, her dedication to helping students improve their awareness and understanding of ethical dilemmas, and her commitment to equipping her students to become life-long learners. 

"I feel deeply humbled and honoured and grateful for this nomination and award,” said Prof. Simola. “I feel very fortunate to teach such a diverse and engaged group of students - and most especially, to work with students who invite and make space for one another; who give one another a voice and a place of connection; who gift one another with the affirmation that each matters to the other, that each makes a difference.” 

Sarah McNeilly, 2019 Recipient of the Award for Excellence in Teaching Assistance 
Sarah McNeilly, a teaching assistant in Cultural Studies and Media Studies, is recognized as a dedicated and dynamic educator whose authenticity, kindness, and enthusiasm create open, respectful, and supportive learning environments that enhance student confidence and success. She is highly regarded for consistently providing direct, meaningful, and encouraging feedback, and for helping students understand and apply challenging and abstract concepts. Her students also appreciate Ms. McNeilly’s strong sense of compassion, fabulous sense of humour, and insightful approach to fostering and facilitating rich and interactive discussions. 

“I am truly honoured to receive this award (and so appreciate that people took the time to nominate me!),” Ms. McNeilly said. “I feel so lucky to have spent the last two years in the company of such inspiring students; I'm all the better for it.” 

Sam Grey, 2019 Recipient of the CUPE 3908-1 Award for Excellence in Teaching 
Sam Grey, an International Development Studies instructor, is recognized as a dedicated and generous instructor and advocate for student success. The transformational learning communities that Ms. Grey creates are praised for fostering mutual respect and support amongst students while simultaneously inspiring students to excel as scholars in and beyond the classroom. Her students also appreciate how Ms. Grey focuses on facilitating individual and collective learning experiences; how she helps students gain comprehensive understandings of challenging concepts and theories; and how she provides extensive and empowering guidance, feedback, and mentorship. 

In learning about the award, Ms. Grey said, “When students tell you what they appreciated most, they’re telling you what they need – not just what they needed yesterday, but what supports they think should continue to be available. Listening to those messages is so important.” 

Susan Yates, 2019 Recipient of the Award for Excellence in Online Teaching 
Dr. Susan Yates, a Biology instructor, is recognized as an outstanding online instructor whose passionate teaching is rooted in a deep commitment to student engagement and success. She is highly regarded for her clear and motivating expectations; her availability and responsiveness; and her well-organized learning environments that include weekly check lists, regular updates and recommended timeframes for completion of course work. Her students also appreciate that Professor Yates communicates challenging content in accessible and understandable ways using a variety of teaching approaches including learning modules, instructional videos and live online tutorials. 

“It is always amazing to embark on new adventures with my students each term,” Prof. Yates said. “I have the privilege to serve as their guide to help them navigate down the best paths to success. At times, the journey can be challenging, but together we can learn and grow to successfully reach our destination. Receiving this honour is incredible because it came from my students. They are the reason I love to teach!” 

For more information about the Celebration of Teaching Excellence, including more details about the teaching awards and past teaching award recipients, visit 

About Trent University 
One of Canada's top universities, Trent University was founded on the ideal of interactive learning that's personal, purposeful and transformative. Consistently recognized nationally for leadership in teaching, research and student satisfaction, Trent attracts excellent students from across the country and around the world. Here, undergraduate and graduate students connect and collaborate with faculty, staff and their peers through diverse communities that span residential colleges, classrooms, disciplines, hands-on research, co-curricular and community-based activities. Across all disciplines, Trent brings critical, integrative thinking to life every day. Today, Trent's unique approach to personal development through supportive, collaborative community engagement is in more demand than ever. Students lead the way by co-creating experiences rooted in dialogue, diverse perspectives and collaboration. In a learning environment that builds life-long passion for inclusion, leadership and social change, Trent's students, alumni, faculty and staff are engaged global citizens who are catalysts in developing sustainable solutions to complex issues. Trent's Peterborough campus boasts award-winning architecture in a breathtaking natural setting on the banks of the Otonabee River, just 90 minutes from downtown Toronto, while Trent University Durham – Greater Toronto Area, delivers a distinct mix of programming in the east GTA. 

For more information contact: 
Elizabeth Bower-Gordon, communications & media relations officer, Marketing & Communications, Trent University, 705-748-1011 x6240 or 

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