SSC Early Career Educator Award 2024

Samantha-Jo Caetano
SSC Early Career Educator Award

The SSC Early Career Educator Award recognizes excellence in teaching statistics by early career SSC members, through commitment to evidence-based pedagogy and in contributions to statistical education in Canada. Such excellence may be demonstrated through contributions to the scholarship of teaching and learning, attention to accessibility and inclusivity of learning environments, or innovation in development and/or implementation of new courses, curricula or programs.

Samantha-Jo Caetano ('Sam') is an Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, in the Department of Statistical Sciences at the University of Toronto, starting there in 2020 after completing her PhD in statistics at McMaster University. At Toronto, Sam stands out as an instructor who crafts extraordinary learning opportunities for students, both inside and outside the classroom.

Sam teaches courses in Statistics in DoSS, ranging from STA130 at the first-year level through to optional research methods courses like STA497, a readings course in which students and faculty can explore topics of mutual interest. Additionally, she is responsible for the cross-listed course on surveys and sampling, STA303/1003. In all of her courses, as attested to by the nomination file and letters from past students, Sam has demonstrated a dedication to teaching practice, with a strong focus on statistical communication and engagement. 

One notable aspect of Sam's dedication to teaching is through her work engaging students outside the classroom. The DoSS undergraduate program is extremely large, so it can be difficult for students to feel a sense of belonging or connection to a community. Sam has worked tirelessly to change this: co-founding the Integrated Statistics Student Community; introducing the Data Science Cafe for mentoring statistical consultants; teaching overload research courses for specialist areas; and contributing to the organization and ongoing success of DataFest at the University of Toronto. In all of these activities, Sam welcomes students as not just participants, but as co-creators, facilitators, and (eventually) mentors. 

Outside the Department of Statistical Sciences, Sam has also been an advocate for outreach to the greater community, leading events focused on secondary school students, women and gender minorities, and racialized students. In these activities she continued her work: welcoming students as co-creators, recruiting undergraduate and graduate students to help facilitate, allowing them to develop as strong leaders with improved communication skills. Nationally and internationally, Sam has made strong contributions to the Statistical Society of Canada and the International Association of Statistical Education, organizing invited sessions, arranging for poster sessions, and serving on the executive of the Statistics Education Section and as chair of the Census at School Canada Committee. 

Finally, Sam shows a keen awareness of the diverse backgrounds and interests of her students. Her courses have been developed continuously to build in scaffolded support for writing assignments, improving clarity and transparency in assessment expectations. Her efforts in these areas and in compassionate deadlines and workload have led to more inclusive classrooms, where students feel supported and welcomed. 

Wesley Burr, Alison Gibbs and Bethany White were responsible for gathering this material.

The citation for the award reads: 

“To Sam Caetano, for her dedication to the scholarship of teaching and learning; excellence in teaching; for her crafting of learning opportunities that allow all students to succeed; for her efforts towards increasing community and student engagement both inside and outside the classroom; and her strong focus on statistical communication.”