Anyone who has taken a statistical sciences class with Alison Gibbs would agree there is nothing random about her being awarded a 3M National Teaching Fellowship from the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education this week.
In fact, she may have been the only one surprised to learn the news.
“I felt quite overwhelmed when I learned about it,” said Gibbs, associate professor, teaching stream, and associate chair for undergraduate studies in statistics in the department of statistical sciences in the Faculty of Arts & Science. “I don’t think I realized before that doing something I enjoy so much can achieve this level of recognition.”
Announced in Maclean’s magazine, Gibbs is one of 10 post-secondary teachers from across Canada recognized for excellence in educational leadership and teaching. She receives lifetime membership in the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, an invitation to the society’s annual conference in June, and a chance to interact more intimately with other 2018 recipients at a four-day retreat next fall.
This year’s cohort joins more than 300 previous recipients named since 1986 in the Council of 3M National Teaching Fellows.
“I’ve long been in awe of the group of previous recipients and the inspiring work that they do for their students and their teaching communities,” said Gibbs. “It’s truly an honour to be invited to be part of that group and I’m grateful that the work I do is being recognized in this way.”
With an infectious passion for statistics, Gibbs inspires students to take more courses in the field and use statistics in their daily lives. She advocates for statistical reasoning, because real-world problems are rarely neat.
Gibbs continually seeks new ways to engage students in authentic experiences that will develop their resourcefulness, creativity, common sense, and judgment. She is known as a pioneer in statistics-education pedagogy and curriculum, and in connecting faculty across disciplines.
“I’m thankful for the recognition that what I’ve been doing is on the right track, and it gives me a small boost of extra confidence and courage to try out my next idea, or see how someone else’s creative innovation might work with my students,” she said. “That and to take on whatever opportunity comes next, or support and encourage others in developing their own teaching style and in trying new things.”
Gibbs acknowledges a long list of people who she feels made the award possible, including administrative and teaching support staff in the department, and teaching assistants and colleagues who encouraged experimentation and collaborated on the development of new ways of doing things.
“And thanks are due to a host of students, of course, who gamely came along for the ride and gave me the opportunity to try to give them a new perspective on how they look at the world, how they tackle problems, and how they learn,” she said.