Dr Pendar Mahmoudi Wins Teaching Excellence Award: A Great Prof With Some Great Advice

Benjamin Beelen - VP Academics
Posted on: March 27, 2019

This term’s Teaching Excellence Award winner is Dr. Pendar Mahmoudi from the Chemical Engineering Department! We, the Teaching Excellence Committee, had the pleasure of interviewing this lovely professor and wrote this article based on that interview!

We asked her a series of questions, and we hope many groups around campus can learn from it. Students, by hearing the perspective of excellent profs, can help us think about what makes a professor excellent and also help us give better feedback. We hope the professors who are reading about what makes a great professor can take away some advice as well.

What made you want to be an instructor?

Dr. Mahmoudi had a lot of excellent points here. First is that she had a lot of great instructors during her undergraduate and she wanted to “carry the torch” of great teaching. She also talked a lot about how much she enjoys interacting with students and seeing our potential flourish as we solve difficult problems, specifically focusing on helping students reach that “aha!” moment.

What’s your favourite aspect of being an instructor?

Other than interacting with students, she really enjoys being an instructor that provides tools we need as students to succeed not just academically, but socially and mentally as well.

Dr. Mahmoudi’s overarching vision for an engineering degree is a puzzle where each course is a piece of the puzzle that builds to a solid foundation. She especially enjoys being an instructor who can help fill in some of those puzzle pieces, and thus see us grow as engineering students. Dr. Mahmoudi believes this extends well past chemical engineering, and wants us to connect with each other regardless of program. In fact Dr. Mahmoudi focused heavily on the importance of multi-disciplinary experience before graduating, as that is how we will work as engineers!

Have you felt that you’ve made a large impact on a specific class or student?

Dr. Mahmoudi felt she could not answer this question well, as she has only been instructing since January (which makes it all the more impressive that she has already won an award for it!). We, the Engineering Society, can’t wait to see where she will go and the amazing things she will do because she has clearly hit the ground running.

In answering the question, she discussed how excited she is to see her current first years grow into better and better engineering students, and that she will enjoy seeing them solve harder and harder problems.

What do you think is the most important aspect or quality of a good lecturer?

Dr. Pendar talked a lot about how important it is to maintain a friendly classroom environment (which includes not having classes too early in the morning!) so that we have the right headspace to learn.

Next the focus shifted to providing feedback to our professors. Profs often think that the class is going okay unless someone speaks up, so it is on US as students to provide that feedback and start the change we want to see.

Organization is also a very important aspect of being a lecturer. Students notice very quickly when a prof is just winging it, and how can they expect students to have good time management when they themselves do not?

We talked a lot about how students also need to be organized. Showing up to class late, not being ready to take notes, not being able to schedule time to do your assignments on time and in a learning promoting matter all lead to less effective lectures. It is on our profs to provide us the environment to learn those skills, but at the end of the day, it is on US to learn them.

If you were a shape, what shape would you be and why?

Dr. Pendar Mahmoudi, like Dr. Mary Robinson (Last Bsoc’s TE winner), would like to be a circle. Maybe there is some sort of correlation here?

But the reason why Dr. Mahmoudi chose a circle is very interesting. “Other shapes seem to have limitations, but circles don’t. We like to have limitless possibilities.”

To close off our interview, we always ask if there is anything else the instructor would like to add. And Dr. Mahmoudi provided one of the most wholesome quotes we have recorded.

Place more importance on life, don’t just focus on being a good engineer. Focus on being a good human, taking care of yourself. Getting seven hours of sleep is better than just reviewing lectures all night. At the end of the day our goal is to be happy, and when we are happy we learn better.”

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