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May 14, 2013 — Winners: Outstanding Teaching Awards

by Christine Elias — Wednesday, May 15, 2013

By Christine Elias

Six faculty members from across Faculty of Arts & Science are this year’s recipients of the Outstanding Teaching Awards. Established in 1993, the awards highlight the value the Faculty places on excellence in teaching. Recipients are selected based on nominations by peers and students.

This year’s recipients are: 


Robert Batey
Department of Chemistry

Robert Batey has taught numerous courses over the years perhaps more than any other member of the department and has been consistently been ranked one of chemistry’s top instructors in student evaluations. An animated, demanding and entertaining lecturer with a passion for organic chemistry, Batey is known as a superb instructor with profound knowledge and an incredible eagerness to help students perform well. He has developed and taught courses in the undergraduate and graduate programs and has helped lead a cultural shift in the education of chemistry students by exposing them to "green" chemistry. And how often do you see "Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll” in a chemistry course description?  His 199 course which aims to introduce the concepts of science to non-science students through organic chemistry – has been a huge hit, more than doubling first-year enrolment in its second offering.


mc-cruervo.jpgMaria Cristina Cuervo
Department of Spanish & Portuguese & Cross-appointed to Linguistics

Maria Cristina Cuervo is a superlative teacher who is highly committed to the education of her students. They praise her dedication and availability, the stimulating and demanding nature of her course content and her positive influence on their intellectual development. In the words of one student: “An excellent professor. I am very thankful for how much I learned in her class, her high expectations and for the inspiration that she instills in all of us. She is amazing!” Cuervo is at a relatively early stage of her career yet has spearheaded significant curriculum development and redesign which has enriched undergraduate education in Spanish and Portuguese. To name just one example, she completely reformulated Advanced Grammar (SPA 420H ) a required course in the specialist and major programs in terms of structure, content and evaluative mechanisms.


Sayed Ajaz Hussain
Department of Economics

Sayed Ajaz Hussain joined the economics department in 2007 and was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2012. His primary mission is to provide a rigorous microeconomic foundation for all 500-plus students in the Rotman Commerce program and he has succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations. Hussain designed EC0204Y — a compulsory second-year course in the Rotman Commerce program — to blend analytically rigorous microeconomic theory with business applications. This has helped provide the commerce program with an analytic backbone that many say is without equal in business programs worldwide. His teaching scores are off the charts. Since he began teaching EC0204Y in 2007-08, Hussain has consistently scored well over 6.0 out of 7 — typically at the 6.3 or 6.4 level — every year and in all of his sections.


Julia Mikhailova
Department of Slavic Languages & Literatures

Julia Mikhailova has completely rebuilt Slavic’s undergraduate Russian language program to make it conform to the highest and most up-date North American standards of language teaching and evaluation. Russian is a difficult language for English speaking students and Mikhailova makes sure that they are truly absorbing it by creating a learning environment that is simultaneously challenging and supportive. Mikhailova’s also dedicated to creating a learning environment that extends beyond the classroom. She almost single-handedly established a host of departmental traditions such as the Slavic talent show and Russian teas creating not only fun, but new opportunities for students to practice their skills and build their cultural knowledge.


James Thomson
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

James Thomson cares deeply about his teaching and this is reflected in the great deal of attention he puts into creating each class experience. As one student wrote: “In my years of study with some superb teachers, I can confidently say that very few match Professor Thomson in his capacity to teach, inspire and challenge. If anyone deserves this award, it is he.” Thomson takes great pride in having the opportunity to teach large numbers of students about ecology — a field that he is most passionate about. He combines his vast breadth of knowledge in diverse areas such as literature and philosophy with an extraordinarily quick wit, to deliver lectures that are engaging, dynamic and memorable. He’s a highly effective mentor to undergraduate students conducting research projects and regularly supervises 299Y and 399Y students, as well as senior students in Advanced Research Project in Evolutionary Biology and Ecology (EEB498Y).


Joseph Wong
Department of Political Science

Joseph Wong's nomination was spearheaded by his students and they had much to say about what a remarkable teacher he is. In the words of the lead nominator: “If I become an academic, I would consider myself blessed, if I could be one-tenth of the professor that Professor Wong is. Another writes: “Professor Wong creates opportunities for his students to explore, to be curious, and to grow as individuals. For him, education goes far beyond textbooks and papers, to facing real world problems and arming students with the practical skills to navigate them. I firmly believe he is nurturing the next generation of leaders and thinkers." Since the fall of 2006, Wong has prepared and taught four new courses at the undergraduate level, including the new gateway course for majors and minors in political science, Democracy and Dictatorship, War and Peace (POL 101), in which there are 1200 students.

Meric Gertler, then dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science, presented the awards on Tuesday, April 16.

Photos: Diana Tyszko