Shafik Bhalloo – TD Canada Trust Distinguished Teaching Award winner 2013

Aug 20, 2013

Shafik Bhalloo

Beedie School of Business lecturer Shafik Bhalloo’s engaging teaching style has won him many admirers in the short time he has taught at the Beedie School – so many, in fact, that it has resulted in him winning the 2013 TD Canada Trust Distinguished Teaching Award.

Bhalloo joined the Beedie School of Business in 2008 as a sessional lecturer, where he teaches classes in commercial law, employment law, and business ethics. Outside of teaching, Bhalloo is a partner at law firm Kornfeld LLP, where he focuses on corporate commercial litigation, general civil litigation, and labour and employment law. In addition, for the last four years he has been an adjudicator on the Employment Standards Tribunal.

The path that ultimately led Bhalloo to teaching at the Beedie School of Business originally began at SFU, where he studied criminology as an undergraduate. It was here that he first considered a career in law, after his interest was piqued while watching trials at the local courthouse. While law would become Bhalloo’s main career focus throughout his life, it was during his time practicing law that he first began to consider the idea of teaching.

“I became interested in teaching the minute I started doing presentations as a lawyer, and since joining Beedie I have tried to take on as many classes as my schedule allows,” says Bhalloo. “When I started teaching I quickly realized that the intrinsic satisfaction I get from it is something that you can’t put a pecuniary value on – that is something that has stayed with me and kept me coming back again and again for more.”

Since joining the Beedie School of Business, Bhalloo has immersed himself in the opportunities available, teaching as many courses as he can squeeze into an already full schedule. He also joined the Teaching Action Committee, where he works with other faculty members to improve the experience of students taking core classes. It is an experience that he states has been extremely beneficial in progressing his teaching skills.

“Teaching takes up a lot of my time, but it’s worthwhile and the Beedie School of Business has been very accommodating,” says Bhalloo. “It feels great to be back at SFU. The people I am teaching alongside with are amazing teachers, who I can only hope to emulate – they are truly inspiring mentors to an aspiring teacher like myself.”

Although Bhalloo’s teaching career is still relatively in its infancy, he recognizes that his style has progressed since its beginnings, where he occasionally found himself losing the students’ attention. While he admits that his teaching style comes naturally to him, it is clear that it is one that is designed to engage with his students.

“When I was a student, the teachers whose lectures I enjoyed would make you feel like they were having a conversation with you,” says Bhalloo. “My style is therefore more of a conversational one where I like to make my students feel at ease – I look on my lectures as a large tutorial, where I invite students to participate. When you establish that kind of rapport, more people start engaging in the lecture and asking questions. It’s through that conversation that the students learn.”

Bhalloo goes to great lengths to ensure his students can relate to the topic at hand, utilizing real world examples that the students will be familiar with. In his contract law classes, for example, the lectures will focus on the students’ experiences shopping for groceries at Wal-Mart, or for clothes at Gap or Aritzia. “If you give students examples they can not relate to, you will quickly lose their attention,” he explains.

Asked whether anyone has influenced his teaching, Bhalloo is quick to sing the praises of his peers, and lists a number of Beedie faculty as being inspirational in motivating him to improve further as a teacher. He is, however, reluctant to single anyone out in particular, instead noting that the Beedie School of Business is blessed with many great teachers, all of whom he considers influential.

“When I look at the number of teachers at Beedie who invest so much of their time into creating a fantastic student experience, to be working with them and learning from their experience is invaluable to me, and actually makes me a better teacher,” he says. “The opportunities that have been offered to me by Andrew Gemino, Aidan Vining, Mark Wexler, Eric Gedajlovic and Neil Abramson in particular, but the Beedie School of Business as a whole, make me feel very appreciated.”

In winning the TD Canada Trust Distinguished Teaching Award, Bhalloo joins a list of distinguished names at the Beedie School of Business. However, perhaps betraying more than a hint of modesty, he is adamant that he still has much to learn before he can be considered their equal.

“The previous winners of the award are amazing academics and teachers, and have styles I could only one day hope to emulate,” he says. “The students have been very kind to me with this award to be honest, but it means that they have been appreciative of whatever I am doing. Just being able to make a slight difference in the students’ lives makes me very happy.”

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