Award-winning teacher shares top tips for educators and students
Posted on Tuesday, March 23, 2021
By Michelle Read
In just five short years with the Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Lisa D’Ambrosio has become a popular teacher among students, earning two teaching awards along the way.
The secret, she says, lies in staying connected with her students.
“By keeping communications flowing with the students, I can assess the effectiveness of my teaching,” she says. “This way, I can actively craft my approach to resonate with them.”
Beloved by students
In 2018, just two years after joining the Faculty, Dr. D’Ambrosio received the Denis Williamson Teaching Award for Excellence in Teaching from the Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology (BMI). Late last year, she won the Faculty’s 2020 Award of Excellence for Educator of the Year in Basic Sciences.
“It’s humbling to know I’m helping students reach their academic goals,” says Dr. D’Ambrosio, an assistant professor in the Faculty’s Translational and Molecular Medicine program. “It’s a reflection that in some small way, I’m contributing to the foundations of their careers.”
Or, maybe not so small. As BMI’s award write-up explains, “her courses and teaching are consistently rated the best science course taken by the students.”
A unique approach to teaching
Part of the reason for her high ratings could be the way she encourages her students to get directly involved in learning the material.
“Taking ownership of their own learning gets them directly invested,” she says. “I’m always integrating opportunities for my students to put what they’ve learned into practice.”
When the TMM program launched in 2016, the year Dr. D’Ambrosio joined the Faculty, she collaborated in planning several of the courses, designing the curricula and activities to establish learning engagement. She currently teaches a diverse range of subjects, such as molecular biology, biomedical research, microbiology, immunology and chromosome biology.
Dr. D’Ambrosio maintains an ongoing dialogue with her students, encouraging feedback on whether they understand the content and find it relevant, her teaching practices and what they find helpful, and what they need to move forward with their learning.
In addition to listening to the group as a cohort, she strives to extend her teaching beyond the classroom (physical or virtual), keeping her door open for one-on-one discussion.
“I try to make a difference by providing an inclusive, supportive learning environment, and so I take a welcoming, individual approach to asking them questions,” she says. “No matter a student’s abilities or goals, my role as an educator is to help them reach those goals.”
Being present and engaging with the students extends even beyond teaching sessions for Dr. D’Ambrosio. She runs the social media platforms for the TMM program, acts as speaker and judge in various competitions, and helps promote student initiatives.
“In offering my support outside of class, I come to know them more individually, which helps me further assess their needs,” she says.
In today’s pandemic-induced online learning environment, Dr. D’Ambrosio encourages students to stay engaged with their learning by establishing a schedule to help balance their days.
“Pencil in learning sessions, study time, social time and breaks,” she says. “Also, stay connected with instructors and peers—come to virtual office hours, study groups and discussions, and continue to learn from each other in an online space.”
In this International Women’s Month, Dr. D’Ambrosio shares her thoughts on being a woman in science. “I discovered this myself,” she explains: “Instead of fitting into a mold, be authentic to who you are; you will be better able to share your talents and strengths with your peers.”
Ultimately, Dr. D’Ambrosio simply loves teaching—apparent in her bright and gregarious nature.
“Each day is an opportunity to help my students reach their goals,” she smiles, “and I embrace that perspective every day.”