Every spring, CTE has an opportunity to recognize one outstanding graduate student who demonstrates the highest achievement upon completion of the Certificate in University Teaching (CUT) program. It is a tough decision to make: only one student can be selected from a pool of more than 30 students who complete the program each year.
This year, the CUT award was given to Reza Ramezan, a doctoral candidate in Statistics and Actuarial Science. Similar to many other international teaching assistants (TAs) on our campus, Reza’s teaching career began outside of Canada. As a third year undergraduate student in Iran with no formal teaching experience and keen interest in teaching, he practically begged his professor to hire him as a TA. His persistence paid off: he got an opportunity to teach and confirmed his interest in university teaching.
As a PhD student at Waterloo, he taught several courses as a TA and particularly enjoyed being a TA in STAT 333: Stochastic Processes. Later he got an opportunity to teach STAT 371: Statistics in Business as a course instructor, an experience he thoroughly enjoyed.
Alongside his practical teaching experience, Reza explored various avenues for learning about teaching. He attended lectures by seasoned instructors in his department and observed the strategies that they used to deliver content and engage students with the material. As a tutorial TA, he asked course instructors to sit on in his classes and provide him with feedback on his teaching. He also collected regular feedback from his students.
During the second year of his PhD studies, Reza heard about the CUT program and decided to attend a few workshops as a way to learn more about the program. He then signed up for the program and started attending CUT workshops. As a CUT participant, Reza impressed CTE instructional developers not only with his raw passion for teaching and infectious enthusiasm in the classroom but also with his commitment to developing his teaching skills. He was eager to try new teaching ideas and approaches that he learned in the CUT program in his own teaching. For example, after participating in a workshop on clickers, Reza worked hard to design effective clicker questions for his next lecture. After he learned how to write clear learning objectives in CUT course design workshop, he began to organize his lectures based on learning outcomes. This way of thinking about instruction gradually helped him to shift the focus of his lectures from content to student learning.
For his CUT research project, Reza developed an hour-long interactive seminar titled, “On statistics anxiety: A transactional analysis approach.” He decided to host the seminar in his department and did behind the scenes work to promote the event among his departmental colleagues – grad students, postdocs, and faculty members. His well-attended presentation was informative and engaging. The audience responded enthusiastically with questions and comments about the topic.
When Reza completed the final requirement of the CUT program and officially graduated from the CUT, he told me that he was both excited and sad. Excited to celebrate the successful completion of the program yet sad that he will no longer be formally part of the CUT. And then, in his trademark enthusiastic tone, he wrote me an email requesting a meeting to “chat about the next steps” in his teaching development. Now, this to me is what the CUT spirit is all about.
Congratulations on the CUT award, Reza!
CUT award is funded by anonymous donor. The winner is determined internally and no application is required. Award recipient receives a plaque and a cash award.