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Luigi Girolametto Acknowledged by U of T Students

Feature Story - What It Takes To Be Great

Open Door Teaching Approach Enriches Student Experience

By Jessica Whiteside

Professor Luigi Girolametto admits some students may find him a bit eccentric. For one thing, he puts star stickers on their assignments for encouragement -- something most of them likely haven't seen since grade school. But what the graduate students in speech language pathology seem to notice -- and appreciate -- most is his accessibility.

"Despite a full teaching and research schedule, Luigi's door is always open, both literally and figuratively, to students… He exhausts all avenues that can be followed whether providing help directly or in researching other sources of assistance for students," they wrote in a letter nominating him for the Centre for Health Promotion's 2003 Healthy U of T Award which is presented annually to those who "create social and environmental conditions that promote the health and well-being of others."
Girolametto and students (clockwise from left): Mariana Vomvas, Melissa D'Amelio, Gianna Yan, Jessica Altoft, Tina Abbatino, Heather Flowers, Esther Katz, Janice Bennett and Adrienne Curran

"Students will often say, Well I see that you're busy but… and my response is, You're the reason I'm here," said Girolametto, the speech language pathology department's graduate studies co-ordinator. "It's through those contacts that I feel I get to know my students, and I know I have a pulse on what's going on in the class."

In December, Girolametto received the individual Healthy U of T Award, while the group award went to the student-run Sexual Education and Peer Counselling Centre. In her nomination letter, student Janice Bennett said Girolametto enriches students' academic experience "with his very special talent for providing support, both directly and by means of facilitating supportive networks amongst the students themselves." That includes encouraging students in the professional master's program to participate actively in the department's buddy system which pairs up year-one and year-two students for mutual support throughout the year. And, said Melissa D'Amelio, when she was in hospital Girolametto phoned for updates and arranged for deadline extensions with her other professors.

"Each day he reminded me that my health was of priority and that he would do whatever he could to lessen any anxiety I was having regarding school work," she wrote in her nomination letter. "When we are having personal problems, this affects our academic work. Luigi recognizes this and does everything he can to help the students through those hard times."

He's also established the Lifesaver Award -- a certificate attached to a pack of the candy with the hole in the middle -- that recognizes students who do something beneficial, unasked, for the class.

"The fact that a student will actually look out for the whole team I think is something to reinforce because this is the sort of professional conduct our graduate students will need to display, the kind of leadership they will need in their future jobs when they're working on interdisciplinary teams with professionals in hospitals or in school boards and so on," Girolametto said.

Although his professional love is research -- into autism, literacy, hearing impairment, ESL children and parent and caregiver involvement in children's language and literacy intervention -- teaching and students are never far from his mind. Class photos posted above his computer monitor help him memorize their names in the first few weeks of class. Finding the balance between his busy research schedule and time for class preparation and teaching "has been the hardest thing in my job," says Girolametto of his 12 years at U of T. "This year, I think I'm hitting a good balance."I love my research and I love the topic area that I'm teaching -- child language development, assessment and intervention from 0 to 18," he said. "I start every lecture by saying this is my favourite lecture and it's because I love the topic. It's exciting to me to be able to share information about something that I'm enthusiastic about. It's a gift."

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LAST MODIFIED: November 04 2004 20:45:35

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