Faculty of Science sweeps Excellence in Teaching Awards

Biomedical Physiology & Kinesiology lecturer Richard Ward.

Chemistry professor Danny Leznoff.

 

March 21, 2016

 

SFU has awarded Danny Leznoff and Richard Ward with 2015 Excellence in Teaching Awards.

Leznoff teaches first-year introductory courses through to fourth-year, graduate specialization courses and undergraduate thesis research projects, but there are three traits he tries to bring to all his classes: enthusiasm, accessibility and organization.

This approach has earned him praise and a 2015 SFU Excellence in Teaching Award, recognizing him as a top instructor at the University. 

“I’m really honoured,” says Leznoff. “A bit surprised actually.  I know a lot of really top teachers doing a lot of innovative things, so I’m quite honoured to be included in such a select group.”  

One nominator notes Leznoff consistently receives a high score for teaching ability in the challenging CHEM 121 course. Students also heap praise in course evaluations, saying he shows tremendous enthusiasm, interest and passion, which makes class enjoyable, interactive and exciting.

“Dr. Leznoff displays a very contagious passion for teaching,” says one nominator. “[He] has an ability to motivate his students and encourage them to think critically, such that they gain a stronger understanding of chemical properties and scientific concepts.”

An important aspect of teaching is transferring knowledge to students and helping them understand concepts, but Leznoff says imparting an interest in the subject is most important.

“It doesn’t matter if they are an A student or a C-minus student,” says Leznoff. “If they leave my class thinking, ‘This is tough stuff and I had to study really hard, but wow, this is really interesting and now I see how important it is,’ that to me can be just as critical as understanding all the details.”

He says seeing the students oozing with excitement after class is the most rewarding aspect of teaching—at least as much as witnessing the proverbial ‘light bulbs’ switching on in the classroom.

 

Richard Ward's secret to teaching excellence is a personal approach and a bit of humour. Those skills have contributed to Ward’s recognition as a 2015 SFU Excellence in Teaching Award winner.

“I try to inject a bit of humour into the class and tag personal or humorous anecdotes to concepts,” he says. “I want the students to be alert, interactive and enjoy being in the room.”

Each semester, Ward makes a valiant effort to connect with his students at a personal level, and also asks them to call him simply, “Richard,” and not “Dr. Ward.”

His students notice.  

One student nominator says Ward knows all the students in his classes and demonstrates care for their learning in both the lecture and laboratory components of classes.

“[He] presents complex material in the field of BPK in an entertaining and highly effective manner,” says another nominator.

Ward is the first instructor in BPK to win an Excellence in Teaching Award. He admits being the centre of attention is a bit embarrassing, but is humbled by the award. 

“It means a lot to me to be recognized,” he says. “We have many great teachers in BPK, but there are four other lecturers, who have been my colleagues since the 1980s, that I believe are equally deserving of this award.”

They are Josephine Anthony and Craig Asmundson, who both recently retired, Stephen Brown and Tony Leyland.

“The common trait that binds us is that we care about the students,” Ward says. “I am a better teacher because of their influence.”

Lecturers, who Ward says are as respected as research faculty within BPK, teach six courses a year. He says teaching is what he’s best at, and where his passion lies, so that suits him perfectly.

He has no plans to stop teaching because he finds the student interaction keeps him feeling like he’s still in his twenties.

He jokes, “I don’t know how long I will keep going—probably until the evaluations go downhill.”

Asked what he finds most rewarding about teaching, Ward replies: “Seeing the light bulbs go on.” 

Story courtesy of SFU News.