In academia, excellence is a cherished standard, and the commemoration of educators who embody this benchmark is a true delight.
The recipients of the 2023 Engineering Institute of Technology’s (EIT) Teaching Excellence Awards in Higher Education (HE) and Vocational Education and Training (VET) have been announced.
Additionally, finalists for these prestigious awards included Dr Arti Siddhpura (Lecturer – Mechanical Engineering) and Dr Naser Hashemnia (Lecturer- Electrical Engineering) in HE, and Dr Hadi Harb and Dr Rodney Jacobs (Lecturer – Electrical/Automation Engineering) in VET.
These educators have demonstrated exceptional dedication and expertise in their respective fields, and their contributions to education have been rightfully celebrated.
As we look at the stories of remarkable academics, and recipients of EIT’s prestigious 2023 Teaching Excellence Awards, we find ourselves at the intersection of inspiration and innovation.
These educators have not only met the criteria for excellence but have exceeded expectations, leaving an indelible mark on the educational landscape.
Let’s learn more about their remarkable journeys and the high standards they’ve set.
Dr Hadi Harb: I encourage every academic to always think about how what they teach can be used in practice by a student. Being practical is not contradictory to being scientifically rigorous.
Deepak Pais: Present the topics you choose passionately. Be considerate of the students’ circumstances as they come from diverse cultural, linguistic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. It is not all about your own knowledge but empathy, attention to detail, and delivery methods that will help develop your students’ skills to make a difference in their lives and lead them to a happier future. As an old Chinese saying goes -“Give a person a fish, they eat for a day. Teach a person how to fish, they learn how to eat for a lifetime.”
Dr Naser Hashemnia: I would like to encourage my fellow academics by reminding them that the impact they have on their students is profound. Stay passionate about teaching, adapt to changing times, foster a supportive and inclusive learning environment, and always remember that knowledge is a gift that can transform lives. Your dedication makes a lasting difference.
Dr Rodney Jacobs: Even though we may have some of the world’s leading experts attending some of our modules as delegates, always teach as if everyone knows nothing, whilst at the same time being well prepared for any question that may come your way, especially from the experts. That way, no one is left behind, and you can capture the attention of the very best delegates in the class.
Dr Arti Siddhpura: In education, key principles for success include fostering a deep passion for the subject, understanding students’ needs, creating an approachable environment, utilizing technology, promoting critical thinking, embracing diversity, leading by example, and embodying lifelong learning. Remember, as academics, we have a profound impact on the lives of our students. By being passionate, compassionate, and committed to their success, we can make a lasting, positive influence.
Dr Harb: I actively seek feedback, especially from my students, and frequently review recordings of my teaching to identify areas for improvement. Additionally, I maintain a habit of reading on a wide range of topics, whether directly related to my teaching or not, and often discover valuable ideas in books that can be effectively incorporated into my courses.
Mr Pais: With my extensive experience in the engineering industry, particularly in the same fields I teach at EIT, I offer a unique advantage. I stay current with industry best practices and innovations, often leading developments in my profession. This practical knowledge allows me to provide students with hands-on insights that complement their theoretical learning. As an instructor with industry expertise, I tailor my teaching to match current industry requirements, ensuring students gain valuable educational experience that enhances their career prospects upon graduation.
My advice to students is to look at the positives when dealing with challenges. Remember necessity is the mother of invention. When you face challenges in your professional life, be positive and remember your past accomplishments rather than only worry about the obstacles. Stay calm because you have the future to work to. Use your industry networking, and never be ashamed to ask for help.
Dr Hashemnia: To keep my teaching innovative and engaging, I continually update my curriculum, incorporate technology, and seek student feedback for improvement. I advise students to stay curious, be proactive in their learning, and embrace challenges as opportunities for growth. The key is to stay open to new ideas and never stop exploring.
Dr Jacobs: Your approach should be enthusiastic, patient, and energetic, as this positivity resonates with students. Remember, the session is about their learning experience, so strive to provide your best.
As for students, they should listen attentively, take thorough notes, and seek clarification when in doubt. Reviewing recordings afterward can reveal valuable insights. While utilizing the latest technology is crucial, being discerning about its accuracy is equally vital. Lastly, always ensure your work is original.
Dr Siddhpura: My teaching philosophy emphasizes innovation and engagement to create a dynamic learning environment. I use active learning, incorporate the latest educational technology, and encourage interdisciplinary exploration. My student-centered approach includes active listening, continuous learning, and self-improvement through feedback.
I advise students to embrace curiosity, challenge themselves, stay organized, collaborate, and seek feedback. I stress the importance of staying informed about industry trends and committing to lifelong learning. These principles prepare students for future challenges.
Dr Harb: After a career as an engineer, research scientist, and entrepreneur it felt natural to me to go towards consulting and teaching. I first started mixing consulting with teaching, then slowly focused more and more on teaching at EIT. So, I got hooked on EIT where I feel privileged to be part of an incredible team. Being an academic offers a unique opportunity to learn new things. And this is exactly what gets me excited.
Mr Pais: My passion for mathematics began in high school, thanks to a teacher who instilled real problem-solving skills in me, making math more fascinating than other subjects. This passion led me to excel in mathematics and eventually choose a career in engineering.
During my high school years, I also realized the immense value of education. I started teaching early, beginning with my classmates, and later assisting my juniors at university. Even as I progressed into a senior engineering management role in the Electricity Supply Industry (ESI), my passion for teaching remained. My goal is to impart knowledge that can positively impact my students’ professional lives, just as education has enriched my own. Education has been the cornerstone of my life, and I’m committed to providing the same opportunity to my students.
Dr Hashemnia: Education has the power to transform lives and society, and I wanted to be a part of that process. I find fulfillment in inspiring and empowering individuals through education, helping them reach their full potential, and contributing to the advancement of human understanding.
Dr Jacobs: It’s all about contributing to society and giving back. When you teach a concept to others, you enhance your own understanding. Teaching has been a journey of self-improvement. After years of teaching, you start seeing a common thread connecting various subjects. Mathematics requires language skills, engineering relies on mathematical foundations, and science is built on the laws of nature. Sharing knowledge not only enhances your understanding but also enriches collective wisdom. I firmly believe in continuous skill improvement; age is no barrier to learning.
Dr Siddhpura: My path as an academic is deeply rooted in my family’s legacy of education, particularly my mother’s influence. Growing up in a small Indian town, I was inspired by the countless lives my mother positively impacted. This profound effect led me to view education as a unique avenue for making a meaningful difference. My choice to become an academic is motivated by my unbridled passion for learning, my belief in education’s transformative power, and my aspiration to inspire individuals.
I relish the intellectual growth offered by academia and value the role of guiding and mentoring the next generation. I am committed to breaking gender barriers in engineering and academia, being a role model, and contributing to society. My dedication to the subject matter and the continuous pursuit of self-improvement completes my journey as an academic.
Mr Pais & Dr Harb: The optimist says, “The glass is half full.” The pessimist says, “The glass is half empty.” The engineer says, “The glass is twice as big as it needs to be.”
Dr Hashemnia: Why do programmers always mix up Christmas and Halloween? Because Oct 31 == Dec 25!
Dr Jacobs: Four engineering students plan to arrive late to their final exam so they can take it the next day. By the time they arrive, the exam is almost over, so they head over to the professor to ask if they can take it the next day. They told him they tried their best to come on time, but their tyre blew out and it took too long to replace it.
The professor tells them, “Don’t worry about it. You can still write the exam today, but since there’s almost no time left, there is only one question to answer. If you get it right, I’ll give you an A on the test.” The students, thinking this is even better than they thought, excitedly take their seats and look at the question: Which tyre blew out?
Dr Siddhpura: Before studying engineering, if someone asked me what 1+1 is, I would have said “2.” Now, I’d say “I’m pretty sure it’s 2, but we’d better make it 3 just to be safe.
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