West Coast Teaching Award badgeAnna has her hair tied back and wears earrings and a blue shirt.Dr. Anna Atkinson believes that students learn best when they feel respected and safe.

Building community in the classroom is central to the VIU English Professor’s approach, which recently earned her a Provost’s Award for Teaching Design and Practice that Employs Innovative Practices for Student Learning.

Two of Atkinson’s key teaching principles are diversity and accessibility. Diversity is found in her course content. “Students should hear voices which the dominant culture often suppresses,” she said. “To this end, every course I teach has Indigenous content and favours the voices of writers, scholars and thinkers from BIPOC and LGBTQ2S+ communities.”

Atkinson is also a proud adherent of Universal Design for Learning. The foundation of this learning strategy is the idea that no student should need to ask for accommodation, but rather that learning environments should consider the diversities learners bring and ensure that accessibility is built into the course.

“We rise best when we rise together,” said Atkinson of her students and their learning journeys. “We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us and we create new knowledge best in collaboration.”

Atkinson said her teaching practice gets better the more she designs a thoughtful learning experience for students – and then gets out of their way.

“I am grateful for the opportunities provided at VIU,” she said. “I am deeply committed to continuing to develop my skills in pedagogy, to ensure the greatest access to the best learning experience it is possible for me to provide.”