In 2017, the Faculty of Mathematics awarded two faculty members with distinctions in teaching. One of those awards went to Professor Pengfei Li and the other to Professor David Jao.
To see Professor Li, you wouldn't expect that he's been teaching for a decade. He explained that his teaching method is adjusted after each time he teaches. By the time Li finished his PhD in 2007, the knowledge he had gained from teaching helped him shape how he interacts with students as a faculty member.
Li finds it encouraging and motivational when student engage with the material through discussions and involvement. "Each time I teach, I learn something from the students. It keeps me energetic. To fully understand an area of knowledge, you need to teach it."
With 10 years of teaching, you learn some tips and tricks. For Li, he feels more confident if he makes notes on what he wants to say in each lecture. "At the beginning, the language was a concern. I still write down what I'm going to say so that it's clear. I make hand written notes and those have helped. This way I can determine what has worked in the past and made note on what will work in the future."
Now, Li faces the challenge of taking on new courses and trying to predict the background of his students. "Teaching a new course can be difficult because you have to guess about the background of the students; you have to make assumptions." In the off chance those predictions don't work out the way Li wants, he relies on the examples he gives and the in class discussions to keep everyone on the same page.
Li's advice to first time teachers is to consult with colleagues and students. "Chat with your students after class. Figure out their struggles so you can understand where they're coming from. There are lots of faculty members in Statistics who are willing to share their experience and help you improve."
Li and Jao join 20 past recipients of the Faculty of Mathematics Award for Distinction in Teaching since its inception:
- 2016 – Ruxandra Moraru and John Watrous
- 2015 – Steve Drekic and David Harmsworth
- 2014 - Penny Haxell and Javid Ali
- 2013 - Dan Wolczuk and Yu-Ru Liu
- 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!