By Bianca Chan, TLS staff writer
For Mira Sucharov, becoming a teacher was not always on her radar. Pedagogy was just one step towards her goal.
“It didn’t start with a career goal of going into teaching, per se,” Sucharov says. “It was a clear goal of wanting to be a PhD.”
But her innate passion to educate was ignited after she had a taste of interacting with students and an early opportunity to create a dynamic learning environment.
Now, she is recognized as one of the most influential and compelling educators in Ontario, as a 2017 recipient of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) Teaching Award.
Sucharov, a professor in Carleton’s Department of Political Science, was one of five teaching award recipients in 2017. Her teaching style and philosophy are anything but orthodox. Stripping her class of lectures and exams are just some of the ways her classes stand out from the others.
“Those decisions [to get rid of exams and lectures] have liberated my teaching space from being a gathering space, and instead I’ve turned it into a learning space,” Sucharov says.
The adoption of guided conversation enables her students to speak freely, Sucharov says, which encourages debate. As a result, her students can bring their own experiences to the classroom.
“Students are coming to the classroom with political and ideological ideas of their own,” she says. “Rather than try to banish those ideas, I try to work with them and engage in ideas that sometimes seem taboo.”
Making the classroom a safe place is another thing Sucharov says she prides her pedagogical philosophy on.
Apart from ensuring the class is an open and tolerant space where students can speak their minds, Sucharov makes mental health and wellness a priority. She actively tries to advance the conversation on mental health, so that “students realize that I see them as whole people and that I’m also a whole person.”
With this approach to mental health, Sucharov says she hopes to bring overall subjectivity to the classroom.
Sucharov is also a proponent of bringing in curricular innovation into her classrooms, using experimental mediums – such as graphic novels, memoirs and opinion writing – to teach.
Her fresh approach has had a wildly popular response and now her career has taken a path towards writing. In addition to developing a standalone course on political writing, Sucharov herself is writing a book, delving into the importance and power of op-ed writing and social media.
Although becoming an educator was not Sucharov’s initial career goal, she has managed to create a space at Carleton that encourages teaching in a wonderfully unorthodox way. As a bastion of empowerment for her students and a passionate and innovative educator, Sucharov has certainly proven herself a more-than-worthy recipient of the most prestigious teaching award in Ontario.