Profiled teachers

Meet our award winning teachers:

Robin Cohen

Professor at the David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science, constantly has a massive heap of papers sitting on her office desk. This is most indicative of her near-superhuman workload. First of all, she has a heavy administrative role as Director of UWaterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University's new Computer Science/Business Administration Double Degree program. Not only does she manage the everyday operations and the external promotion of the program, she also has to co-ordinate communications with Laurier.

Serge D’Alessio

Associate Dean | Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach

Perhaps the best indicators of the quality of an instructor’s teaching are testimonials from his pupils. According to one Rate My Professors website reviewer who has taken MATH 212 with Serge D'Alessio: “Words aren't enough to describe the amazingness [sic] of this prof. He's super clear, and super organized. Encourages students to ask questions and is genuinely interested about the material he teaches. You can see his excitement when he's talking about Maxwell's equations.” Others have attested to Serge’s dedication, saying that he is willing to “skip Thanksgiving to hold a review session for you before a midterm”.

Ian Goulden


Perhaps rightfully so, most people are cynical when they hear a CEO praising his or her own firm. As Dean of Mathematics at Waterloo (2010-2015), Ian Goulden was essentially the CEO of the Mathematics faculty, but his testimonial holds great credibility because he faithfully spent his entire academic career at this institution.

Penny Haxell

Joining the Faculty of Mathematics in 1993 as an assistant professor, Haxell took a love for the beauty of mathematics and turned it into a teaching style.

Yu-Ru Liu

Riding a wave of inspiration from her own university professors, Yu-Ru Liu approaches teaching in a unique way – to inspire her students, relate to them as best she can, and treat them as if they were her own. With an overwhelming excitement to meet her students every term, Liu brings a maternal instinct into the classroom. “Being a new mom, I have a different outlook on teaching now. I want to teach [my students] the same way I would want someone teaching my own children. I look at them like my own kids now so it’s easier to be relaxed and play with the material a bit more,” says Liu.

David McKinnon

Associate Dean | Undergraduate Studies
There is one thing David McKinnon absolutely despises: poor instructing. “There are a lot of weak instructors who are in denial about it, or don’t want to work on improving it for a host of reasons. There’s nothing to be said to such people,” he remarks.
Before going to class, Alfred Menezes purposely discards his lecture notes in order to force himself to know all aspects of the material and to present a highly organized lesson. Spontaneity is also the key to making his classes interesting. “I think students find it more engaging when the lecture is more lively and not just copying from a piece of paper; the material needs to be developed as we speak,” says Alfred.

Stephen New

A lecturer who describes teaching as a way to help build understanding, Stephen New first started at Waterloo in 2000 as a core math instructor teaching introductory courses to math, science and engineering students. Similar to his colleagues, New walks into the classroom excited to teach. “There’s no need to find motivation for it, I just enjoy it,” said New. Over the past 13 years, his dedication to teaching has taken him across the world all while flying the Waterloo flag.

J.P. Pretti


J.P. Pretti
Professor John-Paul (J.P.) Pretti came to the University of Waterloo for his undergraduate degree and has stayed here ever since. He graduated with a Bachelor of Mathematics (joint degree in Combinatorics & Optimization and Pure Mathematics). Then, he went on to complete his Master of Mathematics (at UWaterloo, of course). And now?

Take a walk through William G. Davis Computer Research Centre (DC) and peer into room 3134. There, you will find books and papers piled from the floor to the ceiling, a rock collection, and one of 2011’s winners of the Distinguished Teachers Award for Mathematics, Professor Jeffrey Shallit. Professor Shallit has been teaching at the University of Waterloo since 1990, and has been a professor for about 30 years.

Levent Tuncel

A humble and hardworking professor, Tuncel takes a no secrets approach to his craft. Between acting as associate dean, graduate studies for a two year term beginning in July 2011, on top of supervising a number of undergraduate research assistants, multiple masters students, and a handful of PhD students, all while conducting his own research, and teaching courses in Combinatorics & Optimization, you would expect him to be an expert juggler. However, Tuncel says he does not have a magic formula to being successful. Instead it’s about preparation, care, hard work, and focusing your passion.
In a class of 200 students – a large percentage of which are spectators who aren’t even registered in the section – Ian VanderBurgh would typically learn two-thirds of their names. He says, “It makes the students feel a lot more connected to me and it helps me feel a lot more connected to them.”

Troy Vasiga

Lately, there has been a viral video circulating of Troy Vasiga dancing behind a podium at the opening ceremonies of the International Olympiad of Informatics (IOI) 2010, where University of Waterloo played host to the world’s top high school computer scientists. Is Troy quirky? Perhaps. But there is no denying that he earns genuine respect from his students in part because of his quirkiness.

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.