Distinguished Award Recipients - 2020


The Canadian Association of Foundations of Education (CAFE) Publication Award for a Single or Dual-authored Book

Dr. Jason Ellis -  A Class By Themselves? The Origins of Special Education in Toronto and Beyond (University of Toronto Press, 2019) 

The purpose of this award is to recognize a single or dual-authored book that makes a major contribution to knowledge in the disciplines that fall under the rubric of the foundations of education, and contribute to educational theory in the social sciences and humanities, published between January 2017 and December, 2019. 


The CAFE Publications Award Committee unanimously recommended Dr. Jason Ellis’ single-authored book published in 2019 A Class By Themselves? The Origins of Special Education in Toronto and Beyond for this prestigious publication award. In their reviews, the Committee recognized the excellence of this publication in terms of originality and theoretical grounding, but also exuberantly appreciated the outstanding contribution of this book to the study and promotion of the Foundations of Education. The Committee members noted the incredible commitment that Dr. Ellis undertook in carefully examining the immense primary and secondary source documents from the Toronto Board of Education special education records from 1910 to 1945, and appreciated how this detailed work was able to shed contemporary light on historical debates on diversity and inclusion, but most importantly revealed the students and parents as historical actors in their own right. The Committee also appreciated the ways that Dr. Ellis’ detailed accounts provide sensitive and revealing intersections with issues of class, race, immigration, and language to broaden interest to educational scholars beyond critical disability studies, history of education and special education. Through this work Dr. Ellis has provided an original and disquieting picture of special education which is well-positioned to inform policy and ongoing debates.


The Committee congratulates Dr. Ellis on his exceptional accomplishment with A Class By Themselves, and are pleased to have a part in supporting its wide recognition!

E. Lisa Panayotidis Dissertation Award in the Foundations of Education

Dr. Polina Kukar

The E. Lisa Panayotidis Dissertation Award is made as a legacy of E. Lisa Panayotidis who did so much to promote the Foundations of Education in Canada, in particular, the study of educational history. This award honours a doctoral graduate whose dissertation improves educational processes in the study of Educational Foundations, or adds to the field’s body of knowledge. This year we have a recipient for the award, and also an honourable mention. The recipient of the E. Lisa Panayotidis Dissertation Award is Dr. Polina Kukar for her dissertation titled: Empathy in Education: A Narrative Study into Practicing Teachers’ Experiences.


This dissertation was nominated by her supervisor Dr. Megan Boler, and committee member Dr. Lauren Bialystok. Usually, the award recipient presents at a special session at CSSE, and we will invite Dr. Kukar to present at the next CAFE conference. Dr. Kukar’s study focused on the ubiquitous educational concept of empathy that predominantly emerges as a decontextualized, prosocial and teachable skill, positioned as a cure-all for social divisions and self-other relations.


Her work shifts from studying what empathy is to what empathy does through layering philosophical study of empathy with practicing teacher narratives to reveal and examine unaddressed issues of systemic injustice in education. Drs. Boler and Bialystok note the original contribution in reversing the traditional angles on the study of empathy towards its problematic deployment, as well as providing a robust historical and philosophical understanding of the ways empathy has been conceptualized by different thinkers since the 1930s. Her external reviewer Dr. Susan Verducci comments: “In excellent prose, the dissertation articulates the façade of promises that mask perception and examination of systemic injustices.” The Awards committee commented that this dissertation is in many ways a ‘tour de force’, that layers a rich engagement with narrative records of teacher interviews with deep philosophical conversations. Dr. Kukar was seen to offer an original, compelling, artful and complicated engagement with an influential educational concept, in ways that reveal its complexities and provides significant implications for professional practice and policy. This work was appreciated as making an original and outstanding contribution in the foundations of education.

Masters Thesis Recognition Award

Kristian Roy, MEd

The purpose of the CAFE Outstanding Master’s Thesis Recognition Award is to acknowledge outstanding research accomplishments of recent master graduates in the Foundations of Education.


The recipient of this year’s award is Mr. Kristian Roy for his Master’s thesis titled: Whitemud: A Narrative Inquiry into the Experience of Self-Identifying Métis Educators. Mr. Roy was nominated by his supervisor Dr. Marie Battiste who shares significant appreciation for Mr. Roy’s ability to engage the method of narrative inquiry in this thesis, as well as the strength that emerged in Mr. Roy working from authentic and layered experience as a Métis educator. Through weaving interviews with Métis educators and lived experience, Mr. Roy was able to raise the distinctive experience of Métis educators being exposed to racialized narratives of Indigenous peoples by educational colleagues and the implications of this for education. External examiner Dr. Evelyn Steinhauer comments that: “this thesis represents an outstanding piece of work”, and it is “evident that this work was carried out with a high degree of rigor, integrity, and that careful attention was given to both institutional and community ethics”. It is with pleasure that we award the CAFE Outstanding Master’s Thesis Recognition Award to Mr. Kristian Roy, and share our appreciation to his supervisor Dr. Marie Battiste for this nomination.

Honourable Mention Dissertation Award

Dr. Kate Dubensky

The Dissertation Awards Committee was also very impressed by another outstanding contribution to CAFE that was submitted this year and thus decided to provide an honourable mention for Dr. Kate Dubensky’s dissertation “Teaching National Values in an Era of Reconciliation: A Critical Examination of B.C.’s Draft High School Social Studies Curriculum, 2015-2018.” This dissertation was submitted by her co-supervisors Dr. Graham McDonough and Dr. Helen Raptis who spoke of the important contribution that this dissertation makes in drawing attention to political assumptions that underlie curriculum in a settler nation-state, while importantly writing in a way that is accessible to both educational scholars and practitioners. The awards committee felt that the dissertation is a timely and important contribution that reveals intersections of ongoing forms of settler colonialism within BC provincial curriculum in a post-TRC context, thus impeding reconciliation work. The Awards Committee would like to congratulate Dr. Dubensky on her accomplishments with her dissertation and for her important contribution in the Foundations of Education.

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