Conrad Hewitt, recipient of the Distinguished Teacher Award, 1997


Conrad Hewitt obtained his PhD in the Department of Applied Mathematics in 1989, and in September of that year was appointed as a post-doctoral fellow in applied mathematics. In May of 1992, he was appointed as an assistant professor and given primary responsibility for providing leadership in the co-ordination and development of the tutorial centre for students in years one and two. In this role, he made changes in the operation of the centre that have made it a much more effective learning centre. When professor Hewitt assumed leadership for the tutorial centre, it functioned much as a drop-in centre, with undergraduate and graduate tutors expected to answer questions relating to a number of different core math courses. He subdivided the centre into four smaller centres, a first year centre and second year centre for each of calculus and algebra. Each tutor was assigned to a single core course, and he made certain that each was informed about, and prepared for, the assignments in his/her course. He also led training sessions to help tutors guide students toward a solution of their own creation. In addition to these structural changes, Hewitt also provided personal leadership in the tutorial centre. He spent as much as 10 hours per week in the centre working alongside the graduate and undergraduate tutors. His example challenged them to be well-prepared for their tutoring duties. As a former tutor put it, “it was a trifle embarrassing some times to be working with a group of students in the tutorial centre and have Conrad walk in. One would quickly be deserted by students who flocked to him.” Hewitt's presence in the centre also gave student clients confidence that they would get the help they were seeking. This development of the tutorial centre was the result of Hewitt's appreciation for the art and technique of effective teaching. As one of his former students wrote, “he is a worthy candidate for this award, not only for having outstanding teaching abilities and a unique approach to students, but also for an uncommon level of dedication and integrity. Dr. Hewitt's rare combination of all these qualities helps him to garner student appreciation, foster learning, and gain that most elusive of treasures, respect.” Students would often marvel at the large number of students he knew by name, and of how generously he made himself available for individual help. But the most highly regarded qualities of Hewitt's teaching were the clarity of his lectures and the energy and vitality of his delivery. It was not unusual for his classroom to be completely full, and to have students bring chairs from adjacent rooms. On more than one occasion he requested that those students visiting from other sections, please make room for the students who were formally registered in his class. Professor Hewitt also created an interactive first-year calculus tutorial in Maple. This tutorial was designed to allow students to study such topics as curve sketching, differentiation, and the direction fields determined by ordinary differential equations. This provides them with an opportunity to experiment and extend the limits of their understanding. Using technology to investigate, with relative ease, many specific instances of general results is an effective way for them to gain confidence in their abilities. Students consistently identify Hewitt as one of their best teachers. The Distinguished Teacher Award is well-deserved recognition for a gifted and dedicated teacher. The celebration surrounding the announcement that Conrad Hewitt has been awarded a Distinguished Teacher Award is tempered by the fact that he left the University at the end of 1996. Hewitt was on a definite term appointment in the Faculty of Mathematics and had been seeking a more permanent position in the academic field. In 1996, he obtained a tenure-track appointment at Ontario's newest university, Ryerson Polytechnical University, and he took up his duties there in January of this year. He was repeatedly nominated by his students for this award from the time he was a postdoctoral fellow, and it is fitting that the University has recognized his accomplishments in this way.