'Immense energy and passion': Innovative U of T faculty recognized with Early Career Teaching Awards

No textbook is a substitute for an attentive and enthusiastic teacher.

Each year, the University of Toronto recognizes faculty members in the early stages of their careers who go above the call of duty to help their students learn. The four winners this year – Jayne Baker, Sohee Kang, Jamie Kellar and David Liu – have all found inventive ways to encourage their students to engage with classwork.

Along with the recipients of other teaching awards, both internal and external, the four winners were celebrated at a ceremony at Massey College on Wednesday afternoon. Vice-President and Provost Cheryl Regehr commended the award-winning faculty for their “immense energy and passion.”

U of T’s performance in university rankings, as one of the top public institutions of higher learning in the world, isn’t just due to its research output, but to the high calibre of its teaching, she said.

Each of the Early Career Award winners described how they get students interested in the course material.

So is Liu, an assistant professor, teaching stream in the department of computer science. After a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, Liu was drawn to computer science because of its practical applications. “What I like to tell my students is: Computer science is really the study of how you go from being just the user of technology to creators of technology,” he says.

He teaches a range of courses, from a first-year introduction to programming to upper-year theoretical classes. No matter the course, he shows his enthusiasm by being animated during lectures and by preparing detailed speaking notes that anticipate his students’ questions.

He has also written more than 100 pages of course notes for his classes, which he makes available to students through the U of T Bookstore.

“I always try to convey why we’re learning certain things, why I personally find it interesting and why I hope they do, too,” he says.

Story by Geoffrey Vendeville republished in part from U of T News