Dr. Teresa Lobalsamo, assistant professor in the Department of Language Studies, was selected as the recipient of the UTM Teaching Excellence Award for Junior Faculty in 2018. Lobalsamo was nominated by her colleague, Dr. Adriana Grimaldi, a part-time lecturer in the Department of Language Studies, and helped put together Lobalsamo’s application package with letters of support from her former and current students, faculty, and staff.
Lobalsamo was informed of her win in the summer of 2018, she explains, “UTM is a hub for exceptional teaching and research, and I know that I am one of many who are doing what they do because they love it.” She was surprised by her win, yet humbled, and she admitted that she cried on learning of her win.
Lobalsamo’s journey to academia began with a dream of being an actress that brought her to university, but her love for learning and academia made her stay. As a first-year undergraduate student at the University of Toronto, her courses mainly consisted of Theatre and Drama Studies courses, with English, French, and Italian as her electives. She was drawn to Italian Studies by her first-year Italian course, as she realised that “there was so much more to it” which inspired her to continue taking Italian courses well into her upper years.
She also says that this experience allowed her “to reconnect with her Italian roots” and “made her fall in love with Italian culture all over again.” She knew she wanted to remain in academia even after her undergraduate degree to pursue Italian Studies at a higher level. Lobalsamo recounts that it was positive feedback from one of her instructors, Professor Gianrenzo Clivio, who said that her essay was “grad school worthy” which motivated her to pursue graduate studies. Following this, she focused on Italian cinema for her Ph.D., and was offered a Course Instructor position at UTM as part of her Ph.D. During her time in this position, she gained appreciation for the student culture at UTM. After she finished her PhD in 2013, she chose to continue as an instructor after an opening in the Department of Language Studies in Italian was posted in September 2013.
She mentions three particular mentors, Professor Michael Lettieri, Professor Salvatore Bancheri, and Professor Charles Elkabas who “shaped [her] confidence but also [her] teaching practices.”
Lobalsamo says about her mentors, “My journey really began because [my mentors] saw something in me which needed to be taken out of me and brought to light and they showed me that I could [pursue] my passion at a higher level. I wasn’t sure where academia would lead me, but it was the best thing that could ever happen to me.” As a result, Lobalsamo always tells her students, “If you love what you do, you will be successful at it. Doors will open up if you love what you do.”
Her teaching style can be best described as “student-centered” as she “meets the students halfway [by adjusting] her teaching style to the class at hand.” Lobalsamo praises the “crème de la crème
students at UTM” which allows her to mould and develop the analytical and critical thinking skills of her students and apply them to Italian.
Regardless of the large class sizes of her first-year introductory Italian course ITA100, she has a “communicative approach” to her classes with an aim of “[getting] to know [my] students, their interests, strengths, areas of pressure and difficulty.” She encourages her students to inculcate the habit of repetition, to “get over the fear of making mistakes,
more comfortable applying” the concepts learned in class through homework, and in-class and online activities. For students in her Italian Culture course, this means even analysing any movie—Italian or otherwise—through the lenses put forward by Lobalsamo during class.
When asked if she has any words of advice for students looking towards a career in academia or teaching in any capacity, Lobalsamo emphasised the value of experience. She further motivates these students to “get experience in the classroom through TAing, experiential learning internships, shadowing, practicum, volunteer work, or Saturday school to be prepared for all eventualities” before attending Teachers College. “You will have a frame of reference [before learning] the theoretical lessons in Teachers College.”
This article has been corrected.
- February 25, 2019 at 5 a.m.: Placed in the correct section