Eight faculty members honored with Excellence in Teaching awards

teaching award winners
Chancellor Blumenthal and Senate Committee on Teaching chair Charlie McDowell, with the winners of the Excellence in Teaching Award for 2014. Back row, left to right: Frank Bäuerle, McDowell, Chancellor Blumenthal, David Anthony, Michael Chemers, Alan Christy. Front row, left to right: Rebecca Braslau, Martha Zuniga, Kim Cardilla, Jody Greene. (Photo by Michael Tassio)

One of the highest honors a UC Santa Cruz faculty member can receive is an Excellence in Teaching Award given each spring by the Academic Senate's Committee on Teaching. The awards honor instructors who have demonstrated exemplary and inspiring teaching.

Winners were selected from nearly 300 nominees submitted by students. This year, eight faculty members from the arts, humanities, sciences, and social sciences were selected for their inspirational teaching.

"Excellent teaching is a core value at UCSC and central to the student experience," Chancellor George Blumenthal told the winners at a luncheon Monday June 9. "You distinguish us as an outstanding research institution that also values teaching," he said. "At UCSC, it's not either or—we value both and do both exceedingly well."

The awards include a $500 prize, with the exception of the Ron Ruby Award for Teaching Excellence in the Physical and Biological Sciences, which includes a $750 prize. Nominees were also asked to submit a personal statement on their teaching philosophies.

The winners for 2014 are:

David Anthony
Associate professor of history
David Anthony teaches a range of classes from large lecture courses on modern Africa and African-American history, to specialized lecture courses on topics like African cinema. Anthony said he tries to create "safe learning environments that can challenge, inspire, assist, and reward students in realizing that that which they gain through daily effort thereafter forms part of who they become." He uses innovative ways such as Skype interviews to bring students into the real-time presence of historians. One student who nominated him said Anthony "has completely changed my perspective on Africa and history-studying techniques which have together made me into a better person."

Frank Bäuerle
Lecturer in mathematics
"Teaching is a great learning opportunity," says Frank Bäuerle, a mathematics teacher at UC Santa Cruz for 20 years. "There is so much more to learn about how students learn. Paying attention to this and your students is still as important as ever to be able to be an effective teacher." One student declared Bäuerle's Math 19 series his favorite class—even though it's offered at 8 a.m. Much has changed in 20 years, Bäuerle said. With a colleague, he is an early adopter of online teaching, a process that has prompted him to rethink his assumptions about how students learn.

Rebecca Braslau
Professor in chemistry and biochemistry
Rebecca Braslau teaches the first quarter of Organic Chemistry (Chemistry 108A), a class that many students must take if they want to pursue any type of biology, chemistry or medical career. It's a task she describes as both a "privilege and heavy responsibility." One student wrote of feeling "positively terrified of organic chemistry" and another "dreaded" it– until the class started. Students called Braslau the "best organic chemistry teacher in the department" and "best professor at UCSC." "I love organic chemistry," wrote Braslau, who said she uses technology to give students in her large lecture classes tools to be able to access the material more easily.

Kim Cardilla
Lecturer in psychology
"I absolutely love teaching and view being a lecturer at UCSC as the best job in the world," Kim Cardilla wrote. She's taught seven courses over the past five years and has found her greatest challenge is to "present information in a way that is meaningful and understandable to all students." Her students respond well. "Kim Cardilla is the most amazing professor I've had here so far," one wrote. Another: "She takes the time to ensure that all of her students have a clear understanding of the material."

Michael Chemers
Associate professor of dramatic literature
"To me, the connections between scholarly, philosophical research grounded in social consciousness and the act of teaching is as natural as breathing; the first is inhaling, the second exhaling," writes Michael Chemers, whom students call "Doc." Chemers is a prolific educator; in his two years at UCSC he has created more classes than many professors do in a career. He's been nominated for the teaching award both years.  Chemers "expands horizons and encourages excellence," a student wrote. "My responsibility as an educator is primary to my work as a scholar, as much as my research and professional activity," Chemers says.

Alan Christy
Associate professor of history
Alan Christy uses the research process to teach, a practice based on his experiences as a learner. His students say he "brings history alive." Christy has taken two groups of students to Japan where they learned history by doing hands-on research as historians. He uses "an empowering approach to education based on student-centered learning and collaboration," a nominating student wrote. Another said, "Never in my life did I dream of flying to Japan and using all of my senses to learn past and present history."

Jody Greene
Professor of literature
Jody Greene sums up her approach to teaching as: "I show up. I arrive ready for pretty much anything I can predict and open to anything I can’t. I make a plan, but part of that plan has to involve setting the plan aside to meet whatever arises in the classroom on a given day." She's been doing that at UC Santa Cruz for 16 years. " Her lectures changed the way I view the world, literature, and myself as a student of literature," a student wrote. "She is stern, fair, and funny, and is always able to make the material interesting. She is my favorite professor at this university," wrote another.

Martha Zuniga
Professor of molecular, cell, and developmental biology
Martha Zuniga is the recipient of Ron Ruby Award for Teaching Excellence in the Physical & Biological Sciences. She uses a holistic approach that engages students in writing, history, and even music as she composes lyrics about scientific concepts. At the final, students can earn extra credit by demonstrating their understanding of an immunological concept through song, dance, games, stories, poems, videos, or art. As one student wrote, "you can see the passion in her eyes. You can hear it in her voice… it's inspiring." Zuniga "didn't just teach me immunology," wrote another, "she taught me valuable learning tools that I can apply for the rest of life."