Recipients honored with 2014 Distinguished Teaching Award
By Annie Lu
May 13, 2014 1:57 am
The UCLA Academic Senate recently selected the recipients for the 2014 Distinguished Teaching Award, an achievement that honors faculty members who excel at teaching. Faculty members were nominated by their departments and the Committee on Teaching evaluated each nominee during a three-month period. The award is divided into three categories: senate faculty, non-senate faculty and teaching assistants.
Neil Garg’s favorite part of class is watching his students final projects – chemistry music videos. The professor and vice chair of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department said he enjoys the music videos because students use creativity to demonstrate their mastery of chemistry concepts.
“A lot of students think chemistry is hard, and I take it as a challenge to teach them that chemistry is cool,” Garg said.
Garg said he loves chemistry because he thinks it involves problem-solving skills that can be applied outside of classroom. He said he tries to ask challenging questions in class, and it’s rewarding when students learn how to solve difficult problems by the end of the quarter.
Garg is also involved in the Office of Residential Life faculty-in-residence program and currently lives on the Hill. He said he enjoys the experience because he gets to spend time with students outside of teaching, during activities such as kayaking trips or resume workshops.
One of Hilary Godwin’s most memorable classroom experiences is Skyping another class in Cameroon. The endeavor sometimes involves power outages and pouring rain that drowns out voices from the class on the other side of the world.
The environmental health sciences professor said her most unusual teaching experience was co-teaching a class with a professor in Cameroon using live webcast. It was exciting for her and the students to exchange different cultural perspectives on the issue of environmental science and learn about the environmental challenges in Cameroon.
Part of what Godwin tries to teach students is the importance of talking with people who live in other countries, especially when it comes to finding solutions for international environmental problems.
She said she believes in using active teaching methods and class activities instead of lecturing to further engage students. Her classes often consist of going on field trips and meeting professionals in the field.
“When I teach students how to do a lead-risk assessment, I let them work in groups and actually get down on the ground to learn how to do the sampling,” Godwin said.
Mitchum Huehls discovered his fondness for teaching while working as a college resident assistant at a summer camp for high school students. Getting to think about the curriculum and spend time with the students sold him on the job.
The English visiting assistant professor said he tries to help students see beyond surface-level content in books by talking about literature as though it raised a specific set of questions for students to solve.
Huehls said he likes to ask students questions instead of just delivering information to his classes.
“I think of teaching as bringing students into an ongoing process of learning,” Huehls said. “You learn by asking, not by being told.”
Tying in the old with the new comes naturally to Felicity Nussbaum in her teaching. She’ll discuss narratives of slavery in relation to the Oscar-winning movie “12 Years A Slave” or ask her students to analyze the history of privacy.
As an English professor teaching 18th-century English literature, Nussbaum aims to engage her students by relating literary themes to contemporary culture.
“Many students think the writers in the 18th century are so distant,” Nussbaum said. “But it’s actually really timely to think about the issues that were raised in 18th century literature.”
In class, Nussbaum said she teaches both canonical and non-canonical works because she wants students to take the road less traveled and discover their passions on their journey.
Hiroshi Motomura often compares his law classes to his music lessons. The law professor developed his teaching philosophy from his own experiences as an introverted student in law school and as a learning jazz musician.
He said he recognizes that every student has a different background, personality and learning style, so he tries to teach in ways that respect the variety of the student body.
When asking questions in class, he tries to call students in groups of two or three so they can feel more comfortable speaking and answering questions.
Motomura said he thinks his job is to give students a chance to actively engage with each subject he introduces to them.
“I often think of my teaching as a music class,” Motomura said. “You would never expect the teacher to be playing the music the whole time. You learn a lot more by playing the instrument yourself.”
For Motomura, teaching is similar to being a parent. He said it is rewarding to watch his students grow and become influential people in their fields.
During her college years, Teddi Chichester was told she was “doomed” to be an English teacher because of her obvious passion for literature.
The writing programs lecturer said she feels an attachment to college campuses and the academic world, so it’s natural for her to work at a university.
Chichester said she wants to bring students back to the beauty of the written word. Her favorite part of teaching is helping students discover hidden talents or interests in a topic.
“I really like seeing students wake up to something that they didn’t know they are interested in,” Chichester said.
Earl Freymiller has never given the same lecture twice.
The professor from the School of Dentistry said he thinks a good teacher needs to maintain the interest of students by engaging them with strong presentations and questions.
To him, it’s important for a teacher to understand the students and realize that not every student is the same, so he tries to prepare his lectures in a way that can engage a larger group.
Freymiller teaches through both classroom lectures and hands-on clinical training. He said he finds it most rewarding when a student or a resident in training that he mentors decides to pursue a career as a professor.
“I get a deep sense of satisfaction because I made enough of an impact to make them want to pass on the knowledge, and through them I’m having a little impact on their students,” Freymiller said.
Paul Barber has been spending his summers in Indonesia teaching students about marine biodiversity since the summer of 2005.
The associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology teaches marine science courses, as well as a summer program for American and Indonesian students to develop their own research projects studying life in the ocean.
Barber said the most rewarding thing about teaching is when students become excited about the field of marine science or change their perspectives about ocean preservation after taking his courses.
In class, he tries to capture students’ attention by performing fun demonstrations to explain scientific concepts, such as flying a hot air balloon or floating a golf ball on top of water.
“It’s like dragging students to a magic show,” Barber said. “It helps students to really focus and it emphasizes the materials.”