Kristine Quinlan Receives A&S Outstanding Teaching Award

April 26, 2024 by Alyx Dellamonica

Professor Kristine Quinlan is the recipient of this year’s Faculty of Arts & Science Outstanding Teaching Award, a recognition of teaching excellence that focuses on classroom instruction, course design and curriculum development.  

Quinlan, who joined the Department of Chemistry in 2004, was surprised as well as gratified by the award... in part because her professional path at UofT has not been straightforward. “I spent most of my career in the Department of Chemistry with a 50% appointment and recurrent contract renewals."

“People with non-standard work arrangements can be hard to compare with their peers,” she said. “That makes it especially meaningful to have my work seen and recognized in this way.” 

A white woman with long hair and a blue shirt stands, smiling, in front of a fence and a verdant green plant.Quinlan has taught an estimated 11,000 general chemistry students and 9,800 organic chemistry students, a tremendous contribution to the teaching and outreach mission of the department. Chemistry Chair Mark Lautens praised her resourcefulness, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown. “This challenge required an extraordinary amount of effort on the part of Kris and other faculty in terms of adopting best online instructional techniques.” 

Quinlan routinely teaches CHM 135 in the fall and says it is a privilege to work with students in their very first semester at UofT. “You’re introducing people not just to chemistry but to university life.” 

Despite large class sizes, Quinlan strives to imbue students with a sense of excitement about the wonders of chemistry. “I want them to go home so taken by something in class that they need to share it with their roommate or family.” 

In addition to teaching, Quinlan has served as faculty mentor for first-year learning communities, and been faculty supervisor and mentor to over 300 teaching assistants. She regularly partners with Academic Success on workshops offering extra support to CHM135 students, most recently one called: “Exploring metacognition: Learning in CHM135.” 

Her teaching philosophy focuses on clarity, problem-solving, and active learning. She works to create environments where students can collaborate to problem-solve and answer questions, thereby fostering social networks for mutual academic support as well as friendship. 

“We set very high standards in terms of our undergraduate instruction in Chemistry, and receiving this award is a testament to Kris's remarkable dedication and commitment to teaching excellence, which she has demonstrably sustained over many years,” said Andy Dicks, Associate Chair of Undergraduate Studies. 

In recent years UofT has worked toward more flexibility in teaching contracts, establishing policies that have given part-time faculty increased access to continuing appointments. These changes allowed Quinlan to obtain a continuing appointment in 2021 and promotion to Associate Professor in the Teaching Stream in 2023. 

“This is the first year she became eligible to receive the award,” Dicks noted, adding that the honour to Quinlan marks the fourth Arts & Science Outstanding Teaching Award for Chemistry faculty in six years. It follows similar awards received by Mark Taylor, Barb Morra and Jessica D'eon.  

“We are extremely proud of Kris and her accomplishment,” he said, “especially given the prestige associated with this particular recognition.” 

The department will celebrate Quinlan’s Outstanding Teaching Award at its Awards Ceremony on May 29th.