Dedication and leadership: Learn about our 2024 OISE staff award winners

By Perry King
April 2, 2024
denise makovac claire alleyne vanessa dane
The co-winners of the Dr. Claire Alleyne Staff Excellence Award, Vanessa Dane Kirkham and Denise Makovac,聽got to interact with the award's namesake, Dr. Claire Alleyne, during the 2024 award ceremony. Photo courtesy Chris Kaparov Luna.

This year鈥檚 recipients of OISE鈥檚 Staff Excellence awards for 2024 represent many different parts of the Institute and all represent significant dedication to our community.


Each year, staff are lauded for their administrative and technical expertise, enthusiastic support of faculty and students, and significant achievement within the community. 

鈥淥ur Staff Excellence Award winners believe in our community, and are committed to ensuring that we can thrive and affect great change in this world,鈥 said Professor Erica N. Walker, Dean of OISE. 鈥淭heir selfless dispositions and hard work do not go unnoticed, and I am grateful for their contribution to our success.

鈥淐ongratulations to all of you, these accolades are well deserved.鈥

The Staff Excellence Awards Selection Committee met this winter and undertook the difficult task of selecting the very best from all the nominations received, each of which tells a story of remarkable contributions our administrative staff are making to the success of the Institute. The Dean鈥檚 Office would like to extend special thanks to the 2023-2024 committee: Julia Duncan, Aliya Mustafina, Madelaine Panoulias, Justin Patrick, Creso S谩, Njoki Wane, and Helen Huang, Chief Administrative Officer, for chairing the selection process.

Below, we describe our awards, and introduce this year鈥檚 winners:

Dr. Claire Alleyne Staff Excellence Award


Vanessa Dane Kirkham, Program Liaison, Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development 

Denise Makovac, Executive Assistant to the Dean, Office of the Dean

The staff excellence award was established in 2008, in recognition of OISE鈥檚 former Registrar, Dr. Claire Alleyne, in her retirement after more than 35 years of service 鈥 her dedication to, and respect for, OISE administrative staff. The Award celebrates contributions of a staff member who has continually demonstrated a deep commitment to excellence and outstanding service, and whose actions have created a positive and lasting impact on our community.

One of them is Vanessa Dane, a well-respected colleague who has been supporting all aspects of the Master of Arts in Child Study and Education program for more than 15 years. Her nominators say that she is the program 鈥 as she capably manages all administrative work from recruitment, website and social media upkeep to admissions and awards, course and practicum planning, events, and advocacy for teacher candidates for external awards and funding. 

Her work on supporting admissions is essential to removing barriers for students form underrepresented groups. For example, she created a form that offers students the option for non-intrusive self-identification while they waited for their interviews. She also implemented check points for reviewers to highlight Black, Indigenous, and other underrepresented groups in education, which contributed to diversifying enrolment. 

Our co-winner, Denise Makovac, is a long-time member of our community, playing many roles at OISE from business officer and administrator at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study (JICS) and the former Department of Theory and Policy Studies in Education, to research manager. Currently, she is the friendly and welcoming face of the Dean鈥檚 Office. representing the Dean with pride, professionalism, kindness and care for all those who interact with the Office. 

An excellent communicator, she is the creator and editor-in-chief of the well-known and highly anticipated 鈥淚nside OISE鈥 newsletter. As an OISE alumna, she is involved in the OISE Mentorship Program where she provides advice and guidance to current students on life and professional experiences, and how to make the most of their time at OISE and in their careers following graduation.

Denise has consistently played a vital role in fostering innovation and growth at OISE , which has had a lasting positive impact on our faculty, students, staff and alumni. Her collegiality and loyalty to OISE and its members tell the tale of an exemplary colleague and citizen.

Leadership Award 


Viel Tolentino, Recruitment & 麻豆传媒集团 Coordinator, Registrar鈥檚 Office and Student Experience (ROSE)

The Leadership Award celebrates the achievements of a staff member who has continually demonstrated exceptional leadership through inspiring a high level of commitment from others, and motivating them to achieve outstanding results; setting and maintaining high professional standards.

An outstanding member of the ROSE team for more than six years, Viel Tolentino started as a student worker and ambassador, progressing quickly to advanced positions 鈥 rising to each new challenge with a strong work ethic and the utmost professionalism. 

As Acting Assistant Registrar, 麻豆传媒集团, Tolentino led the ROSE and cross-departmental admissions team in planning and initiating the 2024 application cycle, consistently projecting optimism, collegiality, and positivity. Her team-oriented leadership inspires both ROSE and departmental staff to meet targets and expectations related to admissions. 

A staunch advocate for diverse recruitment, she was instrumental in ensuring the success of OISE鈥檚 application for  (APUF) for the Master of Teaching Access Pathways for Black Educators initiative providing invaluable insights on student services, admissions, and outreach strategies based on her extensive knowledge in these areas. 

Innovation Award


M谩iri McKenna Edwards, Coordinator, Diversity, Equity & Student Experience, Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning (CTL)

The Innovation Award celebrates the achievements of staff, individually or as a team, who have developed and implemented a creative solution that increases the productivity and enhances the value added to research, teaching and the administrative processes at OISE.

Since joining the department in 2022, M谩iri McKenna Edwards has undertaken multiple initatives to build understanding, inclusion, justice, and access for the CTL community, and has become a vital member of the administrative team, effectively fostering collaboration and leading numerous projects that have enhanced culture and climate within the department.

She is a true educator who continually seeks new learning and whose work contributes to building shared understanding and commitment to anti-oppressive practice across the department. For example, her work resulted in a draft MT Equity Workplan, disclosure and complaint processes for students, and developing priorities for programmatic action in admissions, pedagogy, community involvement, and curriculum planning.

To help educators respond to ongoing traumatic world events and injustices, Edwards curates and creates resources such as 鈥淗ow Would I Teach This?鈥 for use by teacher candidates and faculty in classrooms at all levels. She facilitates partnerships beyond the department and OISE such as innovative collaboration with the Faculty of Social Work offering internship placements to 2nd year Master of Social Work students who are interested in learning about educational settings.

Cultivating Community Award


Gary Cronin, Recruitment and Communications Specialist, Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education

Iman Fouad, Recruitment and Communications Assistant, Department of Social Justice Education

Paige Lancaster, Receptionist and Office Assistant, Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study 

Andrew Maksymiw, Facilities Coordinator, OISE Space Planning and Management

The Cultivating Community Award celebrates the achievements of staff, students or faculty members 鈥 individually or as a group 鈥 who have undertaken positive actions to influence and improve a sense of belonging, inclusivity and community within OISE or our external environment.

Gary Cronin鈥檚 unwavering commitment to community building has left a lasting impact on all members of the department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education. This is especially evident in three key areas: 1) post-pandemic community renewal, including establishing effective in-person events and online engagement opportunities such as the LHAE Newsletter and the Meet the Profs series; 2) in collaboration with the department鈥檚 student association, enhancing student connections within the department; and, 3) providing valuable support to staff and faculty in their respective pursuits towards revitalizing the life of the department.

Iman Fouad鈥檚 dedication to creating dynamic and inclusive work environment and her commitment to community engagement and social justice is evident in her everyday interactions with students, faculty and staff. She plays a fundamental role in the Wellness Committee and is actively engaged in organizing community events, managing social media platforms, coordinating sessions, and ensuring a welcoming environment for all participants.

Paige Lancaster exemplifies the ethos of the award through her unwavering dedication, infectious positivity, and creative flair. She fosters a welcoming and inclusive environment for all who enter the Jackman Institute for Child Study, and her creativity and humorous contributions play a vital role in nurturing a spirit of camaraderie. Additionally, her 鈥淧-U-N Paige鈥檚 Untrue News鈥 performances have become a highlight, bringing joy and laughter to both children and parents. Her nomination was broadly supported by members of the JICS community including leadership, faculty, staff, Lab School teachers, students and their parents, including Canadian director Sarah Polley.

Andrew Maksymiw鈥檚 dedication and outstanding service consistently supports and enables staff, students and faculty in their work at OISE. His in-depth knowledge of all three buildings, their spaces, and people makes him a 鈥済o-to鈥 colleague for navigating facilities-related issues, from heating and cooling to resolving security concerns and managing access. Andrew鈥檚 efforts are vital in enabling everyone at OISE to carry out their work effectively. 


from the recent awards ceremony in their honour.

Awards, OISE Staff
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