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Introducing our new faculty members: Kristy Timmons

Kristy Timmons (Education) is one of the 41 new faculty members hired in 2017-18 as part of Principal Daniel Woolf's faculty renewal plans. 

This profile is part of a series which will highlight some of the new faculty members who have recently joined the Queen's community as part of the Principal's faculty renewal plans, which will see 200 new faculty members hired over the next five years - approximately 10 net new faculty hires per year.

Kristy Timmons (Education) sat down with the Gazette to talk about her experience so far and how she made it to Queen’s.

Kristy Timmons, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Education. Dr. Timmons joined Queen's in the summer of 2017, part of a faculty renewal program initiated by the Principal. (University Communications)
Kristy Timmons, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Education. Dr. Timmons joined Queen's in the summer of 2017, part of a faculty renewal program initiated by the Principal. (University Communications)

Tell us about yourself and how your first few months at Queen’s have been.

My research and teaching are focused in the area of early child development. I completed my undergraduate degree at Ryerson University in Early Childhood Studies. This experience really taught me the importance of having both theoretical knowledge and practical experiences to truly understand child development. Upon graduation, I pursued graduate studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), in the Child Study and Education Master’s program.

I really enjoyed working as a Registered Early Childhood Educator and a Certified teacher. These experiences surfaced a lot more questions than answers about the education field. This lead me to pursue a PhD in Developmental Psychology and Education at OISE/University of Toronto. While completing my doctoral studies I had the opportunity to teach in Higher Education at Ryerson University and the University of Toronto.

While I was writing my dissertation, in the final year of my doctoral work, this position in the Faculty of Education at Queen’s was posted and it really felt like the perfect fit for me.

I have now been in the position since July 1, 2017 and I feel lucky to be at a University where there is so much support for new Faculty. In the Faculty of Education we have a mentorship program and are supported in our transition to Queen’s. This mentorship group includes both formal and informal meetings. I was hired with two other new faculty members, Dr. Lee Airton and Dr. Alana Butler, who I am really fortunate to work with!

Tell us about your research.

Fast facts about Dr. Timmons

  Department: Education

  Hometown: Pickering, Ontario

  Research area: The processes that influence young children’s learning, engagement, and self-regulation

  Favourite kid’s book: Picture a Tree by Barbara Reid

  Dr. Timmons' webpage

My research interests centre on the processes that influence young children’s learning, engagement, and self-regulation. Within this focus, I have carried out research with children, families, and pre- and in-services educators.

My doctoral work examined the influence of educator and child expectations on kindergarten children’s literacy and self-regulation outcomes.

My current research focuses on two additional studies that were informed by findings from my doctoral work. The first is titled, “What is self-regulation anyway? Examination of the ways in which self-regulation is defined and promoted in early years practice and policy documents in Ontario. The second is, “Beyond expectation levels: The influence of educator expectations, beliefs, and practices on children’s learning outcomes in play-based kindergarten classrooms.

Sell us on taking a class with you. 

I am currently teaching four courses in the Consecutive Bachelor of Education Program. I hope to teach a graduate course this fall.

I recently pitched a graduate course on self-regulation and executive functions. Self-regulation has been a research focus in many fields ranging from education to neurobiology to many subfields of psychology. One of the major challenges is that there is no universal definition for self-regulation, and with differing definitions comes varying ways of measuring it.

It is important that teachers are aware of how to support the development of self-regulation. I often talk about co-regulation with students, as self-regulation involves a social component where a parent or teacher can support children in developing skills to be successful at managing their behaviours, impulses, emotions, and thoughts. Think of a group of Kindergarten students sitting on the carpet: one student is trying to talk to another student about their birthday party while the teacher is reading a story aloud to the class. The child has to inhibit their desire of talking to their friend about their birthday party in order to comprehend the story. With older students, the distraction could be looking on Facebook or checking a text message. These are really simple examples but are helpful in thinking about the daily interactions that require self-regulation skills. 

Childrens self-regulatory and attention skills are among the strongest predictors of future academic success. Although educators know the importance of self-regulation development, researchers and teachers alike continue to struggle to understand the complexities of what self-regulation is and how best to support it in a school context. I am hoping to offer a graduate course where we can begin to unpack the complexities of self-regulation and executive functions together.

Dr. Timmons delivers a lecture in "Self-Regulation in Kindergarten Contexts". (University Communications)
Dr. Timmons delivers a lecture in "Self-Regulation in Kindergarten Contexts". (University Communications)

You are teaching teachers so…what are some of the strategies you use in the classroom?

I apply a lot of strategies I used when I was a teacher to my teaching in higher education. It sounds a bit funny, but when you think about it, I am teaching at the Faculty of Education, many of our graduates will become teachers. I try to model strategies and practices that they will use in their classrooms.

I use various teaching approaches into my weekly class structure. I integrate a lecture component with in-class activities and discussions. I often integrate case studies into my lectures, as I find this allows students to reflect on real practice situations. I promote student involvement in the courses I teach through think, pair, and share interactions and small group discussions. I often encourage students to begin discussing concepts in these smaller groups and then ask for a group leader or a member of the partner team to summarize key points that have been discussed.

This past term, I had the opportunity to teach a Foundations of Psychology course where I had over 500 students. This was my first time teaching a large lecture-style class and I am continuing to learn what works and does not work in that teaching context.

Given your interest in early years education…what is your favourite kid's book, and why? And what was your favourite subject in school?

Picture a Tree by Barbara Reid. I like to promote inquiry-based learning methods with students. In one of my classes, before reading the story, I asked the students to picture a tree and then to draw what they were picturing. Some drew a family tree, some drew a Christmas tree, and others had personal stories about a tree they had planted in their backyard or a tree they pass by on their daily run.

I emphasize in my literacy and language course how to use storybooks as a starting point into an exploration. I think these examples demonstrate the unique ideas and perspectives students bring with them to their teaching and learning.

My favourite subject…language arts or social studies. 

Anything you do to unwind?

Since moving to Kingston, I have taken up rock climbing which is something I never tried before. Unwinding for me often involves being active…spinning, weight lifting, and walking my dog. I am looking forward to exploring more of Kingston this summer. I went to Wolfe Island last year but I am hoping to see other islands this year.

What are you most grateful for?

I had an interest in research and teaching in the early years. With this role at Queen’s, I have found a path that brings teaching and research together. From early on, I knew I was interested in teaching yet I always had questions I wanted to explore in a research capacity. I am grateful to be in a position where I get to teach in higher education, work in the early years through my research, and continue to explore questions with the hope of improving the education of our youngest learners.

I am also really grateful to have a loving supportive network of family and friends around me who have supported me in accomplishing my goals. They have provided that extra external motivation when my internal motivation was running low.

I am the only teacher in my family, my brother’s background is in musical theatre and I remember telling him  ‘teaching is my stage’.

Faculty Renewal 

Principal Daniel Woolf has identified faculty renewal as a high priority for reinvestment by the university in support of the academic mission. The five-year renewal plan will see 200 new faculty hired, which nearly doubles the hiring pace of the past six years and will result in approximately 10 net new hires per year.

Faculty renewal supports Queen’s commitment to diversity and inclusion by giving the university the opportunity to seek proactively representation from equity-seeking groups such as women, people with disabilities, Indigenous Peoples, and racialized individuals. It will also build on Queen’s current areas of research strength.

To learn more about the Principal’s faculty renewal plans, read this Gazette article. Stay tuned for additional new faculty profiles in the Gazette.