SFU chemistry professor Daniel Leznoff is a 2015 SFU Excellence in Teaching Award winner.

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Passion for chemistry earns accolades

March 10, 2016
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By Allen Tung

“Oh, I hated chemistry.”

“I failed chemistry.”

“Wow, that’s really hard.”

These are the comments Danny Leznoff often hears when he tells people he is an SFU chemistry professor. That’s why he’s made it his mission, as a teacher, to make chemistry a “favourite," one pupil at a time.

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.”  

Danny Leznoff

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.

“The ultimate goal is to present intellectually challenging, rigorous and informative lecture material that is also enjoyable and memorably a ‘favourite’.”