Winner of the SSC Distinguished Educator Award
Dr. Alison Gibbs from the University of Toronto is the recipient of the (inaugural) 2023 Distinguished Educator Award of the Statistical Society of Canada. This prize recognizes extensive and sustained excellence in teaching statistics by SSC members. The adjudication considers significant contributions to evidence-based pedagogy and in leadership in statistical education in Canada, demonstrated through activities such as the development and improvement of evidence-based pedagogy, continued promotion of accessibility and inclusivity in learning, broad and continuing integration of research or professional experience into teaching, and evidence of success in statistics community building. This is the first year this award has been presented, after its creation was approved by the board on behalf of the Society in 2022.
Dr. Gibbs has provided her students with rich, authentic learning experiences in the many statistics courses she has developed and taught over the years. She even taught high-school math for several years between her Bachelor of Education degree and graduate school. Alison is currently the director of the Centre for Teaching Support and Innovation at the University of Toronto, and a full professor, Teaching Stream in the Department of Statistical Sciences: the first statistician at the University of Toronto to be promoted to Full Professor, Teaching Stream. She served as associate chair of the Department of Statistical Sciences from 2014–2019, during a time of incredible program growth (from 1300 to 4200 undergraduate students enrolled!), a truly Herculean task. Alison's leadership helped see the establishment of a culture of innovation in teaching and learning at the University of Toronto, and her teaching dossier is lauded across that university as the gold standard all instructors should aspire to. Alison was also the first (and only, so far!) statistician in Canada to be awarded the prestigious 3M National Teaching Fellowship from the Society of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.
Nationally, Alison has served the SSC in many capacities, particularly those with an educational focus, including being chair and member of the statistical education committee for eight years. When the Census at School (Canada) project was dropped by Statistics Canada, Alison provided significant leadership to the SSC in taking charge of the program and seeing it through to being the vibrant, continuing project it is today, serving as the chair of the SSC census at school committee from 2012–2018. Internationally, she has contributed in outsize ways to both the ASA through the Section on Statistics and Data Science Education and the ISI’s International Association for Statistics Education (IASE) as vice-president, invited speaker, and conference organizer, including 2023's IASE Satellite Meeting in Toronto. Her impact spans educational sectors (higher education and K–12), learners (undergraduate and graduate students, teachers, faculty and staff, and administrators), geography (department and university-level, national and international), and even disciplines (statistics, statistics education, and teaching and learning more broadly).
The citation for the award reads:
“To Alison Gibbs, for her outstanding dedication, enthusiasm and advocacy, ongoing innovation, and extensive contributions to the field of statistics education; for her tremendous impact through leadership and mentorship within the Canadian statistics community and beyond.”
This citation was written by Bethany White who led the nomination, and was endorsed by those who wrote letters of support: Chris Wild, Christian Léger, Mike Evans, Jamie Stafford, Nathan Taback, and Craig Burkett.
Wesley Burr was principally responsible for this report, and thanks to the many supporting letter writers who provided so much incredible material that summarizing it was a difficult task.