Distinguished Teaching Award Winners for 2016

University of Waterloo faculty and grad students are honoured for excellence in teaching

By Staff

Centre for Teaching Excellence

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Four University of Waterloo faculty members have been recognized for excellence in teaching with the University’s most prestigious teaching honour - the Distinguished Teacher Award (DTA).

The DTA consists of a citation along with a $1,500 award to be used by the recipients in support of any teaching activities. The awards will be presented by Mario Coniglio, associate vice-president, academic, at the June convocation ceremony.

The recipients are chosen by a committee of students, faculty, staff and alumni based on nominations from the university community. The 2016 award winners are:

Jee-Hae Lim

Jee-Hae LimSince she joined the University of Waterloo in June 2006, Jee-Hae Lim, associate professor in the School of Accounting and Finance, has been credited with taking a course that students approached with trepidation and turning it into a course that students love. She is known for establishing a personal connection with students, even in large classes – by learning names, doing homework checks in the classroom, and offering career advice during her office hours. One undergraduate described Lim as “dynamic in the classroom, supportive during office hours and overall a great instructor and person to interact with.” Lim’s innovative assignments are designed to get students to extend their knowledge beyond the classroom and the textbook. An alumnus commented that, “Jee-Hae is like an invisible hand, gently pushing from behind, and encouraging people to accomplish that which at first seems impossible, pausing and applauding as each milestone is reached before gently pushing again towards an even higher goal.” One of Lim’s colleagues wrote that, “She brings the same analytical and comprehensive approach to delivering her courses that she brings to developing her research. In both cases, her performance is exemplary.”

Robert McKillop 

Robert McKillopRobert McKillop, a lecturer in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is recognized for his one-on-one support of students, his high level of preparedness and the real-world relevance of his courses. Since joining the university full time in 1999, McKillop, who is known for setting high but realistic expectations, has taught a variety of courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. “It is noteworthy,” commented one of McKillop’s colleagues, “that in recent years, the Electrical, Computer, and Management Engineering programs have begun to implement Bob’s strategies in their 1A term so that their students can benefit from the ‘Bob Effect’.” As a current undergrad noted, “Dr. McKillop is one of the first faces they see, and he stays with them until they have successfully navigated their first year of undergrad.” An alumnus elaborates, “In the 15 years that I have known him, there is one thing that has never changed: he is as excited each September to meet his new first-year students as he was the previous September. Bob is not only excited to meet his new students, he is hopeful for their future and what they can accomplish.” 

Kathryn Plaisance  

Kathryn PlaisanceKathryn Plaisance, associate professor and associate chair, undergraduate studies in the Knowledge Integration program, has been at Waterloo since 2009. She has been a valuable foundational member of the Knowledge Integration program, and has had a transformative impact on her colleagues. Along with many presentations to peers about her teaching practices, Plaisance created a workshop with her students to help other faculty members implement collaborative strategies into their teaching. Many faculty members who attended the workshop, remarked that the experience changed the way they taught in their own classrooms.  She and her students have been asked to run a second teaching workshop in April. Plaisance is known for being approachable and makes herself available outside of class for students to discuss matters that are affecting them – both personally and academically. One undergraduate student commented that “Katie has the ability to challenge her students while simultaneously building academic confidence. Every student that takes a class with Katie grows as a writer, philosopher, learner, and listener.” To quote one of Plaisance’s colleagues, “Her pedagogy is rigorous and exciting at the same time. She is rapidly emerging as one of Waterloo’s leading exemplars in teaching.” 

Mark Pritzker 

Mark PritzkerMark Pritzker,  a professor of chemical engineering, is a Teaching Champion, in the department. Many nominators noted Pritzker’s natural ability to engage students, his organization of lectures, and his enthusiasm for the course material: “It is impossible not to be impressed.” One undergraduate noted that, “he’ll ask the students questions to prompt them into thinking, if he observes that they aren’t retaining the material well. He pays very close attention to the students’ body language and adapts his teaching accordingly.” An alumnus turned faculty member remarked: “Sixteen years after taking Mark’s course I still vividly remember his lectures on half-cell potential and corrosion.” Pritzker, who started at the University of Waterloo in 1989, is well known for going above and beyond the expectations of both students and colleagues. A faculty member raved, “His teaching packages and the notes for the courses he has taught are used by numerous other faculty members which is a testament to the quality of the instruction and overall organization and presentation of the material.” One student said, “Professors like Dr. Pritzker show students that post-secondary education is more than just getting a degree.” 

The recipients of the 2016 Amit and Meena Chakma Awards for Exceptional Teaching by a Student have also been announced:  

Tiffany BayleyTiffany Bayley is an Engineering PhD candidate in Management Sciences. She is recognized by students for her dedication and preparedness. In 2010, Bayley received a department award for her performance as a teaching assistant. In 2011, she received the Sandford Fleming Teaching Assistant Award. One student remarked that “Bayley’s passion for teaching and deep expertise of the complex concepts were evident throughout the entire semester.” Another undergraduate student commented that “her teaching clarifies concepts magically.” Bayley has been described by a faculty member as “a very valuable asset to me, enriching the course with her technical expertise and enabling me to more seamlessly manage different aspects of the course.” Bayley continues to make a difference in the lives of her students by going above and beyond their expectations. 

John DoucetteJohn Doucette, a doctoral candidate at the David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science at the University of Waterloo, is recognized for being approachable, thorough, and passionate about teaching. When ranking Doucette’s teaching on a scale from 1 to to 4, one student asked, “Can I give John a 5? Because he deserves one. John is phenomenal!” Another student remarked that “even though it was an 8:30 am lecture, his classes were always full.” A faculty member praised Doucette saying he “is a top-ranked candidate, with an unmatched array of talents and experience.” Doucette began his undergraduate studies at the age of 15. Given his long and proven track record for exceptional teaching, Doucette is a very deserving recipient of this award. 

Hadi HosseiniHadi Hosseini is a highly-motivated PhD candidate at the David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science. He is able to get his students actively involved in the classroom and encourages them to answer and ask questions. He shows students that he is genuinely interested in them by learning their names and entertaining “tangential conversations about computer science after lectures.” This personal engagement is reflected in Hosseini’s high course evaluations. One undergraduate student commented that “he clearly showed that he cared about his students and their success.” Along with his studies and teaching, Hosseini works at the Centre for Teaching Excellence as a Teaching Assistant Workshop Facilitator to help guide other Waterloo graduate students in advancing their knowledge, techniques, and skills as instructors. One professor remarked: “As a teaching assistant, Hosseini has always done a phenomenal job.” 

Laura SauderLaura Sauder, a PhD student in biology, is recognized by students for her unconventional but effective teaching methods. She taught a biology course that she hadn’t taken as a undergraduate but still exceeded the the professor’s highest expectations. When her students recall their time at Waterloo, they will think of her interactive class demonstrations, microbiology art contests, personal anecdotes, and her microbiology Twitter account (@Biol240_2015). Multiple undergraduates commented that Sauder made students in her 300-plus student lectures feel like they were sitting in a class of thirty. On the last day, she provided her students with tips for long-term success in biology. One undergraduate student remarked that Sauder was, “really dedicated and passionate about the material she was teaching.” A biology professor commented, “Laura Sauder is a rising star of Canadian academia and demonstrates a perfect storm of research and teaching excellence.”