With mid-terms over, Natalia Kouzniak is again holding “crying sessions” in her office with students taking first- and second-year calculus courses who complain that they can’t do math.
“I spend 15-20 hours a week in my office explaining to students why math is useful, how to study it, what was insufficient in their studying,” says the SFU Surrey senior math lecturer.
“My teaching philosophy and goal is to help students unlock their potential – to get students who say ‘I’m not good enough at math’ to become good enough.”
Her students would agree the 2012 SFU Excellence in Teaching award winner meets that goal.
They are effusive in their praise of her teaching and encouragement, often noting high grades in courses such as calculus and differential equations they struggled with or failed in the past.
“First-year math requires perseverance and good teaching,” she says. “I’m a very strict instructor, but I always give students a second chance.”
Kouzniak takes her passion for math far beyond the classroom. She coordinates work at the Surrey campus Mathematics Open Lab drop-in centre for first- and second-year math students and participates in a number of outreach activities.
She organizes a popular math camp each summer as well, and helped found a Surrey math meet-and-greet for high school students to visit first-year math classes on campus.
She also visits local high schools to promote math at SFU and discuss the transition to university.
“Natalia believes in her students, which makes them believe in themselves,” says a nominator. “Her dedication and commitment to her students is phenomenal.”