UC Berkeley Announces Distinguished Teachers

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The UC Berkeley Committee on Teaching announced the selection of four faculty members Thursday to receive the Distinguished Teaching Award, an honor bestowed on only a handful of faculty members each year over the past 50 years.

In a April 8 campus-wide e-mail, the committee-part of the campus division of the Academic Senate-announced the selection of professor of civil and environmental engineering Juan Pestana-Nascimento, professor of marketing Teck-Hua Ho, assistant professor of linguistics Line Mikkelsen and associate professor of computer science Dan Klein as award recipients. Their selection was based on performance reviews and evaluations from committee members, faculty and students.

The committee selected the recipients based on a wide range of eligibility requirements, from enthusiasm and vitality in both thinking and presenting in the classroom to active participation in advising students and guiding research projects, according to the committee's Web site.

Professor of art history and committee member Andrew Stewart said he found the finalists' lectures "riveting" despite his unfamiliarity with the majority of the subject matter.

"In particular, since I always lecture with visuals and take a great deal of care over them, I found Dan Klein's use of video clips of his and others' robots to illustrate his lectures on artificial intelligence masterly," he said in an e-mail.

The faculty members are nominated and selected in a two-part process, with the first stage conducted in secrecy, Stewart said. Committee members analyze raw student evaluations, letters of recommendation, course syllabi and visit nominees' lectures incognito to determine the award nominee finalists.

The second stage consists of discussions and votes within the committee to decide the final recipients, he said.

Pestana-Nascimento said committee members coming to observe his lectures and evaluate his teaching methods was a bit overwhelming.

"But in the end, what you have to do is teach," he said. "And that is important because my students are the reason why I won the award. You are a model for all teachers and students and you try to share this experience with them."

In addition to recognition by the Academic Senate in a public ceremony, recipients receive a cash award from the campus.

"To be totally honest, when they told me there was a monetary aspect at all I was kind of surprised," Klein said. "With an award like this, the impact on you is not carried in the money, it's carried in the knowledge that you try really hard to be as good a teacher as possible and teach classes that you always wanted to, and to ultimately get that validation is an amazing thing."

Mikkelsen said in an e-mail that even though she knew she was a contender for the award, she forgot about it during the course of the spring semester.

"I was overcome with joy and gratitude ... One does become a campus celebrity of sorts and that's quite surreal," she said in the e-mail. "Luckily it hasn't affected my interaction with students in my classes."

The public ceremony for the award recipients will be held at 5 p.m. on April 22 in the Zellerbach Playhouse, with a reception to follow in the Toll Room of the Alumni House.


Contact Katie Nelson at [email protected]

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