Computing Science University Lecturer Receives Excellence in Teaching Award
By: Andrew Ringer
SFU computing science university lecturer Diana Cukierman has been named one of three winners of the 2021 SFU Excellence in Teaching Award. This award recognizes an educator’s enthusiastic and innovative teaching, their ability to stimulate students to think creatively and critically, and their demonstrated caring for student learning.
Cukierman’s time at SFU started as a master’s student in the 1990s. She went on to complete her PhD at SFU and started teaching in the School of Computing Science in September 2004.
Cukierman says that she’s always had a passion for teaching. Her teaching philosophy includes encouraging students to take responsibility in their learning and actively participate in their courses. She encourages students to reflect on their understanding of the course material and to provide feedback on her courses. In her experience, students benefit from these reflection exercises, which are then used to improve her teaching methods, aiming to provide a stimulating and supportive learning environment.
While her research was in artificial intelligence and knowledge presentation during her graduate studies, she is now focused on the area of computing science education. This area of research focuses on developing tools to improve education and providing strategies for studying and learning in computing science.
“It’s not just about programming, but about motivating students to appreciate computing science and learn about learning,” says Cukierman. “This is what I believe is my most important role.”
Cukierman describes herself as a “permanent student” who is always wanting to further her education. She is always looking for professional development opportunities and interaction with colleagues through workshops and conferences, both as an attendee and as an organizer. She has three degrees and is currently completing her fourth degree in education as a way to continue to improve herself as an educator.
For her, a highlight of teaching is connecting with students and hearing from ex-students on how a course that she taught helped them to continue pursuing computer science.
“I’m happy because I’m helping the world in my own way, and I’m helping students to find their passion,” she says.
Going forward, Cukierman plans on continuing to support and motivate students, enjoy teaching, and do research in computing science education to find new ways to best teach her courses while adapting to the current challenges in teaching.