Two U of T professors honoured with President’s Teaching Award

Published on U of T News
Michelle Craig’s work to improve and enhance learning materials in computer science has been internationally recognized. Paul Piunno’s teaching innovations have introduced undergraduate science students to interdisciplinary research.

The two University of Toronto professors, who have devoted their careers to enhancing the student experience, have been awarded this year’s President’s Teaching Award. The award recognizes sustained excellence in teaching, research in teaching and the integration of teaching and research.

“Professors Craig and Piunno have brought great energy and creativity to their classrooms, enriching the education of our students and setting an inspiring example for other teachers,” said U of T President Meric Gertler.

“On behalf of the University of Toronto, I congratulate both of them on their achievements and on receiving this important recognition.”

Winners of the teaching award receive an annual professional development allowance of $10,000 for five years, and are designated members of the U of T Teaching Academy for a minimum period of five years. The academy meets regularly to discuss matters relevant to teaching, offer advice to the vice-president and provost, as well as the director of Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation (CTSI).

Craig, an associate professor, teaching stream, in the department of computer science, is particularly excited to begin contributing to the U of T Teaching Academy.

“It means you have an opportunity to have a bigger impact on what we do here and raise the portfolio of teaching at the university,” said Craig, who joined U of T in 1990.

Craig has been active in transforming computer science material for various audiences. She co-ordinated the cross-Canada Undergraduate Capstone Open-Source Projects program (UCOSP) to train promising software developers and the Computing for Medicine program to introduce computing to medical students. She is currently working with the National Center for Women & Information Technology to develop EngageCSEdu, a peer-reviewed online repository for teaching materials. “A place for teaching-stream faculty to publish resources,” said Craig.

She is most proud of her work in developing educational materials, leading a team that produced over 125 videos and over 200 exercises about C and Systems Programming that have been viewed thousands of times by U of T students.

She couldn’t do it alone, and said she was thankful to collaborate with many across her department.

“The thing I’m most proud of was getting a whole bunch of people to agree to work on this stuff together,” said Craig, who read on camera for each video while other faculty and students filled in as script writers, editors and videographers.

She believes strongly in producing high quality materials for her students. Collaborating on over 35 publications in computer science education, Craig also takes pride in applying scholarly rigour to her teaching methods and materials.

“Assignments and curricular materials are what makes the student experience,” said Craig, who won an Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations teaching award. Having a good relationship with students is important, she added, but “what makes the student’s experience in computer science is how well the materials guide them through the lessons and how frustrated they are when the instructions aren’t careful.

“If they can get from Step A to Step B, and actually meet the learning objectives – and it hasn’t been too painful – that’s what I want to invest in.”

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