Campus recognizes innovative and dedicated teachers


The Senate Academic Committee on Teaching (COT) in conjunction with Chancellor Cynthia Larive and CP/EVC Lori Kletzer, Cruz celebrated UCSC’s innovative and dedicated teachers with a rally at Cowell Provost House in early June. This event, the first after COVID-19 forced the suspension of in-person celebrations, not only honored the 2021-2022 Teaching Excellence recipients but also the winners of the last two years (2019-20 & 2020-2021). Additionally, he celebrated the recipients of the newly established award Distinguished Teaching Award. Finally, Jody Greene, associate vice-president of teaching and learning and Michael Tassio, director of online education, also received an award of excellence for wisdom, agility and tireless effort. to guide the UC Santa Cruz community to “keep learning and keep teaching” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Teaching Committee is delighted to announce the 8 recipients of this prestigious five-division campus-wide award for the 2021-22 academic year. Each year, the committee receives approximately 400 student nominations and selects 7-10 instructors. Feedback from students about the impact their excellent teaching practices have had on their lives has been an inspiration to COT. TOC appreciates their contribution to the important teaching mission on our campus and is grateful for the opportunity to showcase their accomplishments.

Micha Cárdenas, Associate Professor, Arts, Games and Playable Media

“Micha was extremely kind and compassionate to me as a student. she started each class by empowering us and encouraging a class of mostly trans students and students of color to take space, be vulnerable with each other, and be receptive to criticism, nurturing, and everyone’s advice. micha made all of us feel that the time we shared in our seminar belonged to each other and that what we could offer each other at that time was precious. micha, through this course, made me feel like i had something more to give to myself and my community. in class, we “rehearsed for the revolution” and experienced and exercised a world that gave more to trans people of color. we had the opportunity to make us our agency. Micha encouraged our seminary to return to our power, and she absolutely deserves the highest praise.

David Draper, Professor, Statistics

“I loved how Professor Draper was able to relate very abstract concepts to real world events. If there was anything in the news that anyone found that mentioned statistics or something we had reviewed he would spend a lot of time engaging with the subject he was always available to answer questions and went far beyond any other teacher I have had in terms of help to the students. He made sure to cover all the elements of the tests and quizzes. During a time of university burnout, he kept me engaged and watching his classes. You can see his passion in his subject and his desire for us, as students, to succeed.

Elena Finkbeiner, Adjunct Faculty, Coastal Science and Policy

“Elena’s classes were by far the highlight of the last term, and I can tell from many conversations that my classmates and I looked forward to her lectures each week. Responsible for covering the broad discipline of “ social scientists”, she has done an excellent job of providing a range of knowledge, while allowing us to delve into the intricacies and complexities of being a social scientist in conservation. Her own experience in this field, combined with her obvious passion for advancing interdisciplinary social science, made the course even more enjoyable as we got to see how the concepts we were learning could be interrogated, adapted and applied to different conservation scenarios.. As well as being extremely knowledgeable, Elena is one of the nicest people I have ever met, and her welcoming and cheerful personality created a wonderful environment. ent class where I felt comfortable sharing my opinions, engaging in discussions, and asking questions (this cannot be said of every class I have been in). I left Elena’s class with not only fundamental social science knowledge, but a new perspective on the work I plan to do in the future. I say it without exaggeration when I say that Elena is an inspiration, and thanks to her, I will strive to continue to learn and improve myself as an interdisciplinary scientist.

Kyle Robertson, Continuing Lecturer, Philosophy

“Kyle is one of the most amazing teachers I’ve ever had. Before taking the ethics bowl, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do once I left school and where I wanted to go. Kyle’s class put me on the path I’m on now. I fell in love with ethics because of this course and the way he taught. So much so that I went join the ethics bowl team and that I join again in the fall Kyle is an amazing teacher, coach and mentor.

Brenda Sanfilippo, Continuing Lecturer, Writing Program

“The teacher did a great job of turning what could have been an impersonal online course into an online classroom by making videos of her showing her face, running class discussion forums, and hosting mandatory zoom meetings. It made the class more interactive. Also, feedback was very well developed on each assignment, which made students feel supported and showed that the instructor cared about their learning.”

Gina Athena Ulysse, Professor, Women’s Studies

“The teacher was very engaging with the class and was also very understanding. She let us interact with the material in many different ways such as artistic representation readings, videos, lectures and she asked great philosophical questions that we would revisit throughout the term. She taught me a lot about the history of black feminism and how little has changed in the history of black feminist movements. She even used her own research to express these ideas on their true magnitude, as well as the Ted talk she gave which was very moving. I absolutely loved taking the class and if I could I would take more classes with her, but this is my last term.

Peter Weiss, Continuing Lecturer, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Ron Ruby Award Recipient

Peter Weiss showed a lot of passion both for chemistry as a subject (thereby increasing my commitment) and for teaching this chemistry to students. Her course was clear in its expectations and had many ways to access improved learning, and was one of my most enjoyable experiences with chemistry. His use of online resources (WebAssign) felt really integrated into the course for real understanding rather than offloading the work. His course made me feel truly prepared for OChem and was part of my decision to continue in a major that required it.

Daniel Wirls, professor, politics

Professor Wirls always made sure everyone in the class felt supported and really helped us understand that he was more interested in making sure we were successful in his class than trying to make things deliberately awkward or complex. It was really evident that he cared about all of his students and if they understood the course content. He was always ready to offer advice, tell anecdotes about his time in the political sphere and answer any questions we had about his lectures. His lectures were always edited just before classes started to ensure they were as accurate as possible and easy to understand. He made the class accessible and engaging by providing free course materials and starting each lecture with music, a clever introduction to the political figure or time period we were focusing on. Professor Wirls truly cares about the subject and the students at UCSC and deserves recognition for the hard work he puts into improving his course and his students.


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