2013 Award for Distinction in Teaching

Dan WolczukIn 2013, the Faculty of Mathematics awarded two faculty members with distinctions in teaching. One of those awards went to Professor Yu-Ru Liu and the other to Professor Dan Wolczuk.

Taking a natural skill and hobby and molding it into a dream job wasn’t Wolczuk’s intention when he was thrust into the teaching world in 2004. Looking back retrospectively, it’s a surprise that the connection didn’t come to him earlier. Motivated by a love of all aspects, teaching is a perfect fit for this extrovert. “I just love everything about it – the material, the teaching. I love watching students get the A-Ha! moment”, says Wolczuk.

Wolczuk, like many of his colleagues doesn’t have a specific approach to teaching but instead builds off the desire to share his love of subject matter with his class. “Students who are more likely to engage with the material and find it entertaining are more likely to excel,” says Wolczuk. “I try and teach to the entire class, regardless of skill level. If I can keep it relevant for everyone and teach them to think mathematically instead of memorizing, it keeps it interesting.”

A love of math has been ingrained in Wolczuk since childhood. “Everyone in my family enjoys math. We’re all constantly counting. It’s number theory that I’m really interested in,” says Wolzuk. Academia however, is new to Wolczuk’s family having grown up doing construction. “With construction, there’s instant gratification. You build something and there it is. With teaching, it isn’t as observable. There’s no gratification or follow up. It’s those moments down the road when a student checks in and says thank you that make you smile. I was invited to the Math Grad Ball and I was taken aback that they wanted me there. It’s that relationship building that makes you feel good,” says Wolczuk.

Teaching mainly first and second year courses in Pure Mathematics, Wolczuk’s favourite courses to teach are the ones that he can dance in and that involve linear algebra. He describes teaching in three words – awesome, awesome, and awesome. It isn’t just teaching that keeps Wolczuk busy though. Writing textbooks and course notes for his classes put his time management skills to the test. While teaching, Wolczuk found that old supplemental material for his courses was more of a hindrance rather than a help. As a result, he decided to make his own. “It can make life a little harder since I think it’s important to go off more than just the course notes but, it’s good to know that the textbook and course notes are providing a benefit to the students,” says Wolczuk.

When he found out he was awarded an Award for Distinction in Teaching Wolczuk says he was honoured and extremely surprised to be in such a group of award winners.

Liu and Wolczuk join 12 past recipients of the Faculty of Mathematics Award for Distinction in Teaching since its inception:

  • 2012 – Stephen New and Levent Tuncel
  • 2011 – J.P. Pretti and Jeffrey Shallit
  • 2010 – Serge D’Alessio and Alfred Menezes
  • 2009 – Ian Goulden and Troy Vasiga
  • 2008 – Robin Cohen and David McKinnon
  • 2007 – Beverly Marshman and Ian VanderBurgh

Nominate your outstanding Faculty of Mathematics teacher for this award!

University of Waterloo

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