Have you ever thought about what distinguishes good teachers from bad ones? Teaching is an art and skill that requires hours of preparation, interpersonal awareness and constant tweaking. Given the tremendous skill required to engage learners, UWaterloo recognizes four outstanding student instructors each year.
Laura Sauder is one of the winners of the Amit and Meena Chakma Awards (AETS). Sauder's students praised her interactive approach to teaching, which made them feel like they were in a class of thirty instead of 300. Recalling their time in Fundamentals of Microbiology, they remembered Laura’s art contests, personal anecdotes, interactive class demonstrations and even her microbiology Twitter account.
No wonder. The PhD candidate in Biology is serious about teaching:
Teaching is a unique challenge that combines many different skills. You need to have a strong understanding of the material, but also good organizational skills for planning lectures, interpersonal skills for interacting with students, and creativity for delivering information in interesting ways. Passing knowledge among people is one of the most critical functions of society.
Computer scientist, Hadi Hosseini, also received the Award for Exceptional Teaching (AETS). Hadi’s own experience as an undergraduate student shaped his approach to teaching Data Types and Data Structures. In an effort to improve on past instructors’ methods, the PhD candidate developed his own active learning approach – for which he’s received tremendous praise. As he explains,
I strongly believe that any subject matter, no matter how technical or rigid in nature, can be taught in an entertaining and interactive way.
This can-do approach to teaching complex subjects is something that all of the winners have in common. Tiffany Bayley led the design project course for fourth-year Management Engineering students. The Engineering winner was praised by the faculty for “enriching the course with her technical expertise.” Award winner, John Doucette, instructed Introduction to Artificial Intelligence and received similar praise. “Even though it was an 8:30am lecture,” a former student remarked, “his classes were always full.”
While none of the four award winners are currently teaching, you might see Laura, Hadi, Tiffany or John at the front of the classroom soon enough. In future, all of them have the potential to become professors in their own right.