Congratulations to the recipients of the 2019 Teaching Awards!

Friday, March 29, 2019

AbramovitchMarcus Abramovitch, recipient of the Amit and Meena Chakma Award for Exceptional Teaching by a Student, 2019

Chemistry, Faculty of Science

Marcus Abramovitch, a PhD candidate in the department of Chemistry, is recognized by students and faculty members for his leadership, patience, and dedication in teaching.  A student described Abramovitch’s teaching as exceptional because of “his passion towards the subject and his passion towards his students.” Abramovitch is characterized by his students as “very open and approachable”, often going out of his way to be available and present in his students’ learning.  He would “question, probe, and attempt to get the student to explain his/her reasoning for their thoughts instead of simply giving the answer”. Many students reflected that Abramovitch had made a significant impact on their learning which made working with him very engaging and beneficial.  A faculty member who supervised Abramovitch in his teaching commented that he “put himself 300% into the course material, not just in time, but in effort that was well appreciated by the students”. Additionally, he filled in for six lectures “with aplomb and excellence.”  A student highlighted that Abramovitch “went above and beyond the expectations for his role as a TA and even took on teaching the course.”  

Abramovitch has been a teaching assistant for CHEM 310.


BalabanSteve Balaban, recipient of the Distinguished Teacher Award, 2019

School of Accounting and Finance, Faculty of Arts

Steve Balaban, a lecturer in the School of Accounting and Finance, has received much praise, not only from his students and his fellow colleagues in the Faculty of Arts, but also from his colleagues in other faculties. Balaban influenced the careers of several of his students and continues to be a mentor to them long after their graduation. His peers admire the effort he has made to incorporate new and interactive learning techniques into his lesson plans, such as problem-based learning and experiential learning. His students also really appreciate his efforts.  One student noted, “His lectures never felt like lectures, but rather interactive discussions”.  Balaban shows genuine interest in seeing his students succeed and many have commented on the integral role he has played in their professional and academic success. His lessons are known to emphasize “the importance of personal development, teamwork, communication, and relationship building”.  Balaban has been described as “passionate”, “engaging”, and “humble”. Additionally, it is noted that his most admirable quality is “his constant desire to improve his teaching abilities and the learning environment”.


ChakrabortyApratim Chakraborty, recipient of the Amit and Meena Chakma Award for Exceptional Teaching by a Student, 2019

Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering, Faculty of Engineering

Apratim Chakraborty, a PhD candidate in the department of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering, is recognized by students and faculty members for his “never-give-up mentality, above-and-beyond learning attitude, and excellent communication skills” in teaching. Chakraborty was always available to his students and engaged in their learning. He was also willing to help his students with other course materials, signifying that he cared about his students and prioritized student learning.  A student remarked that Chakraborty had made “several profound impacts on [their] learning and the way [they] approach difficult problems."  When asked what made Chakraborty an exceptional teacher, a student replied that “humility, kindness and diligence really set [Apratim] apart as a teaching assistant, but what sets him above is his compassion and care for the students he helps.”  A faculty member commented that Chakraborty has “the potential to become an excellent university-level instructor in the near future.”

Chakraborty has been a teaching assistant for ECE 209, ME 115, ME 235, ME 596, and MTE 203.


CohenRobin Cohen, recipient of the Distinguished Teacher Award, 2019

Cheriton School of Computer Science, Faculty of Mathematics

Robin Cohen, a professor at the Cheriton School of Computer Science, is able to keep her students engaged in her lectures at all times, even while talking about the social impacts of technology amongst a class of Computer Science majors!  Cohen has facilitated many group discussions within large classes and has guided her students through “extremely challenging and controversial topics”. The “dynamic and collaborative learning space” that she creates in her classroom is what keeps her students interested and motivated. As a student noted, Cohen’s teaching methods “proved very helpful in eliminating the sense of isolation in the class and improved our [their] group dynamics”. Students greatly appreciate the detailed feedback she provides on assignments, as well as how she relates the course content to their own personal experiences.  Cohen, a past recipient of the Faculty of Mathematics Award for Excellence in Teaching, has been described as “passionate”, “knowledgeable”, and “caring”.  Both her peers and students recognize the hard work she has done over her years of teaching.


FernandesHeidi Fernandes, recipient of the Amit and Meena Chakma Award for Exceptional Teaching by a Student, 2019

School of Pharmacy, Faculty of Science

Heidi Fernandes, a Master's student in the School of Pharmacy, is recognized by her students, peers, and faculty members for her leadership, teaching methods, adaptability, and passion in teaching. A faculty member remarked that Fernandes “has already become [the] ‘go-to’ person when [instructors] need someone to lead a teaching activity.” Fernandes “thrived” in her role as a tutor for PHARM 422; a challenging course where she guided students in their learning, provided constructive feedback, and facilitated class dynamics with excellence. In this course, Fernandes implemented an active teaching strategy of pairing up students to learn from and teach each other, which made a profound difference in her students’ learning. A student remarked that Fernandes had the “ability to take complex topics and explain them in a very clear, structured and simple manner.” Fernandes is consistently making “it a priority to provide [her students] with all the support needed to succeed.” Fernandes served as an assessor for the Objective Structured Clinical Exam series and is a member of the Society of Pharmacy Students. She also completed the Fundamentals of University Teaching certificate offered by the Centre for Teaching Excellence.

Fernandes was a teaching assistant for PHARM 222, PHARM 223, PHARM 422, and lab facilitator for PHARM 229, PHARM 329.  She also guest lectured for PHARM 378, PHARM 472, SWK 601R and was a supervisor for PHARM 401. 


FieguthPaul Fieguth, recipient of the Distinguished Teacher Award, 2019

Systems Design Engineering, Faculty of Engineering

Professor Paul Fieguth is noted as being a “strong academic leader” within the Department of Systems Design Engineering. He is very involved in the Faculty of Engineering as he was the Associate Chair of Undergraduate Studies (2005-2009) and is currently the Chair of his department. He has been involved in undergraduate curriculum development, as well. Students describe Professor Fieguth as being “passionate, open and enthusiastic”. They feel that “his main goal is truly to help students learn”. A student commented that “participation [in one of Professor Fieguth’s courses] felt more like a privilege than an obligation”. Additionally, students appreciate how he incorporates into their lessons, relevant applications of their learning to real-world problems. As a student noted, “Dr. Fieguth is always trying to connect concepts to the outside world, in order to cement the ideas in our minds, and to show the importance of them”. Furthermore, he provides his students with support in their projects and continues to offer them guidance when they are no longer his students. Professor Fieguth has been the recipient of other awards in graduate supervision and teaching excellence.


HoustonAndrew Houston, recipient of the Distinguished Teacher Award, 2019

Communication Arts, Faculty of Arts

Professor Andrew Houston is widely known in the Department of Communication Arts as an “inspiring mentor”, a “gifted teacher” and a “generous collaborator”. Students have described Professor Houston as “warm, welcoming and eccentric”. They also appreciate his “consistent care, compassion and support” which follow them well beyond graduation. His dedication and passion for theatre arts have had lasting impacts on several of his former students including those who have since moved on to pursue occupations in different fields. Additionally, he uses his strong network of contacts to provide students with opportunities to further their careers. It is noted by many students that his most outstanding quality is his ability to engage diverse learners in his lessons. As one student commented, “He makes sure to teach each concept by explaining it in multiple different ways, so that everyone understands”. One of his peers noted that his dedication to collaborative pedagogies “enriches and strengthens the department, the work of his colleagues, and the university as a whole”. Houston is highly regarded by students, alumni, colleagues, and local artists in the community. 


WangCaelan Wang, recipient of the Amit and Meena Chakma Award for Exceptional Teaching by a Student, 2019

Combinatorics & Optimization, Faculty of Mathematics

Caelan Wang, a PhD candidate in the department of Combinatorics & Optimization, is recognized for her teaching strategies, dedication, and passion in teaching. A student remarked that Wang “works hard and goes beyond what she is required to ensure the well-being of her students” and is highly present and engaged in her students’ learning. When asked about Wang’s teaching, a student replied that “her teaching was exceptional because she always went above and beyond to help, constantly tried to improve her teaching, and ultimately made the course much more understandable.” Caelan continues to look for opportunities for herself and others to grow in their teaching.  She mentors graduate students in their teaching through the Centre of Teaching Excellence as a Graduate Instructional Developer and is recipient of the Fundamentals of University Teaching Certificate.  A graduate student with whom Caelan had worked reflected that their “teaching skills have greatly benefited from [Caelan’s] advice and support.” Wang is also a mental health advocate and a Student Representative on the Women in Mathematics Committee. 

Wang has been an instructor for MATH 239, and a teaching assistant for MATH 674 Topic 3.