Spring Semester Distinguished Teaching Award Winners

Posted: May 20, 2020

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Amidst a pandemic and building lockdowns, maintaining the connection between student and teacher was never more important. To highlight that connection, the Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE) Department announced its five spring semester Distinguished Teaching Award winners who helped exemplify it.

ECE Chair Hesham El Gamal said student response for professors Eylem Ekici, Isabel Fernandez Puentes, Lisa Fiorentini, Saeedeh Ziaeefard and Lee Potter shined a light on their above-and-beyond efforts during spring semester.

“It is phenomenal that, even with the major disruption associated with the pandemic, we did not miss a beat in our pursuit of excellence in our education, research and service,” El Gamal said.

Comments from student surveys noted a smooth transition into online classes, he said, and the winning teachers received positive comments, such as, “The professor genuinely wants to help students learn,” or “They are simply awesome.”

Each of the noted professors provided some insight into their motivation for trying to bring their best game to the classroom each semester in the ECE program.

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When Ziaeefard thinks about teaching, she reflects back on her time as a student. She had excellent mentors, which makes her want to be the same for her students, even after they graduate.

"I had a great professor who taught me how to connect the theories and fundamentals with real life applications; to always ask 'why' and try to find a solution," she ssid. "Teaching is rewarding when you see that 'aha' moment on your student's face, regardless of how long it takes."

Getting feedback from students who graduated about how she helped change their perspectives is also rewarding and motivating. 

"I see my students first as humans, then as students. I try to be caring in everyday interaction and be patient with them. Not everyone has the same learning pace and ability," Ziaeefard said. "On the other side of the spectrum, some are more thirsty for knowledge than others. I try everyday to find a balance and be more inclusive in my classroom. It's a challenging task but possible."

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Ekici feels the pursuit of education is only rivaled by getting to mentor students.

“What really motivated me to become a professor was a unique combination of opportunities: You get the opportunity to innovate, educate, and grow as you do both. Among these, education is what always keeps me motivated as it is the most rewarding aspect of the job,” he said. “Interactions with our students are priceless.”

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Fernandez Puentes agreed, saying she cherishes the opportunity to keep learning while sharing her knowledge with others. She also hopes to make a difference in her students’ lives, while inspiring and motivating them to be better people.

“Their appreciation and gratitude shows me that I can make a difference in their lives. I deeply care about them and want to support them in any way I can,” she said about her students.

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Fiorentini said teaching is fun and highly rewarding for her to consistently try to improve her lessons, teaching methods and gain student interest in the topic.

"Teaching does not only involve transmitting knowledge for me, it primarily means helping students to develop passion for learning, intellectual curiosity and the analytical/critical thinking skills that will help them become successful in school and in their career," Fiorentini said. "I am not sure they will ever apply the theoretical results and practical methods I teach them, but I do hope I help them become better engineers."

Potter has maintained a passion for teaching for decades, and working with students is the best part of the job.

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“I taught my first college-level class in 1983 – calculus recitation – and was hooked,” he said.

One way he challenges himself as a professor, Potter said, is to convey multiple viewpoints in order to explain topics, which helps students who may have differing learning styles. 

Potter said being a father added more care to his process of teaching too.

“Experiencing my own children’s learning has added another layer of empathy and attentiveness to my work at Ohio State,” he said.

Learn more about each professor by visiting their faculty website pages in the ECE directory.

Ziaeefard currently teaches ECE 3551 (introduction to feedback control), ECE 5463 (introduction to real time robotics), ECE 3090 (Technical Writing and presentation), and ECE2300 (circuit analysis).

Ekici teaches courses, such as ECE 3561, ECE 6102 and ECE 6001.

Fiorentini was teaching the ECE 4900, 6070 and 5554 courses through the MS Laboratory. Learn more about the lab's current projects for graduate students. 

Potter is currently teaching ECE 5200, ECE 5007 and ECE 8999 in 2020.

Fernandez Puentes is a current lecturer in the ECE program.

Story by Ryan Horns | ECE/IMR Communications Specialist | Horns.1@osu.edu | @OhioStateECE