Two Vision Science PhD candidates receive 2020 Amit and Meena Chakma Awards for Exceptional Teaching

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The recipients of the 2020 Amit and Meena Chakma Awards for Exceptional Teaching by a Student were announced this week by Associate Vice-President, Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs Jeff Casello. Dania Abuleil and Amy Chow, two PhD candidates from the School of Optometry and Vision Science, were among the four winners. 

The Amit & Meena Chakma Awards for Exceptional Teaching by a Student were established through a generous gift by Dr. & Mrs. Chakma to recognize and promote teaching excellence of our next generation of educators. 

The recipients of the 2019 Amit & Meena Chakma Award for Exceptional Teaching by a Student were: Dania Abuleil (Science), Amy Chow (Science), Dylon McChesney (Arts) and Maša Torbica (Arts).

Recipients are chosen by the selection committee which assesses the candidates intellectual rigor and communication skills in the interpretation and presentation of subject matter. Concern for and sensitivity to the academic need of the student is an important criterion. The value of the award is $1,000. Learn more about the two Science recipients.

Dania Abuleil, School of Optometry and Vision Science

Dania AbuleilDania Abuleil is recognized by students, peers, and faculty members for her teaching strategies, approachability, and dedication. One student describes Abuleil’s teaching as exceptional because, “not only does she help you thoroughly understand the material but she makes you proficient with that knowledge, fosters and develops your self-confidence, and provides you with strategies to make you more self-sufficient in the future.”

Abuleil’s passion for teaching went beyond the classroom as she continually looked for new ways to improve as an instructor, including earning a Fundamentals of University Teaching certificate. She has developed a variety of teaching methods to explain difficult concepts and cater to her students’ learning needs, but what truly make’s Abuleil’s teaching exceptional is her friendly and approachable personality.

One faculty member stated that, “[her] patience with students and kind character helps her develop strong connections with her students, which ultimately makes them feel valued.”

Abuleil also ensures that her fellow Teaching Assistants take pride in their abilities to teach students, serving as the President of Graduates in Vision Science and establishing a new method for receiving instructional feedback. Abuleil has been a teaching assistant for OPTOM 104, OPTOM 114, OPTOM 124, and OPTOM 272. She has also been a lecturer for OPTOM 219.

Amy Chow, School of Optometry and Vision Science

Amy Chow.Amy Chow is recognized for her enthusiasm towards teaching and dedication to the scientific community. One student described Chow as “born to teach.” Other students noted that her teaching “consistently went above and beyond” and that she is a “phenomenal communicator” who “has an invaluable talent for explaining complex concepts in the most clear and concise way.”

Chow does not just teach concepts to her classes; instead, she guides learners using different teaching methods until the concepts resonate with them, often using real-life and personal examples to support her teaching and provide better understandings of the topic.

Chow’s dedication to Science and Optometry goes further than the classroom, volunteering to be a clinical supervisor at mock eye exams and sharing her knowledge with learners at the annual Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity workshop.

Chow engages with students outside of the classroom with her fun, supportive, and genuine personality to build a close community within the University of Waterloo. Chow has been a teaching assistant for OPTOM 219, OPTOM 245, OPTOM 262, OPTOM 272, and OPTOM 375.

Congratulations to Dania and Amy!