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Press Release

Three UC Berkeley faculty members to be honored with elite Distinguished Teaching Award

– Three faculty members at the University of California, Berkeley, will join the campus's elite ranks of teaching excellence on Tuesday, April 29, when they are presented with the 2003 Distinguished Teaching Award.

The award, bestowed by the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate's Committee on Teaching, is the highest honor for instruction given by UC Berkeley. Only five percent of those who have taught at the campus since 1959 - the year the awards began - have received this award. This year's recipients bring the total to 210.

The 2003 awardees are Glynda Hull, professor of education; Martha Olney, adjunct professor of economics; and Jeffrey Reimer, professor of chemical engineering.

The winners will be honored April 29 at a 5 p.m. ceremony in Zellerbach Playhouse. The event is open to the public, as is the reception that follows at Alumni House. At the ceremony, the three awardees will speak, as will Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl and others. A video presentation will be shown that highlights these respected teachers.

The awards process begins each year in the fall when departments throughout the campus nominate outstanding faculty members for the Distinguished Teaching Award. The Academic Senate's Committee on Teaching then spends several months reading recommendation letters, student evaluations and other supporting material, and visits each nominee's class.

Awardees each receive a certificate and $10,000 award from UC Berkeley, as well as a gift from the California Alumni Association.

Winners of the 2003 Distinguished Teaching Award

Glynda Hull
Graduate School of Education

Whether in a UC Berkeley classroom, a remote village in northern India, or an after-school program in West Oakland, Glynda Hull uses multimedia technology tools - and her infectious enthusiasm - to lure students into the world of literacy.

"She has the ability and skill to draw even the most laconic, shy students into the discussion of ideas based on readings, observations and fieldwork experiences," said Professor Lily Wong Fillmore, who co-taught a course with Hull in spring 2002.

Hull, a professor in the education school's Language and Literacy, Society and Culture program, currently is researching educational uses of and equitable access to digital technologies. Last fall, she spent time in India working on a project to provide computers to rural schools. She tells the story of one visit, to a tiny rural village without shops or electricity, where the elementary school has a single computer powered by a set of solar panels.

"What an amazing thing it was," said Hull, "to walk among the children and observe their fascination with this new tool and a previously unavailable science curriculum that was being delivered via CD-ROM.... They sat en masse, facing the machine, listening and watching intently and silently as distant marvels were revealed."

Hull returned the following week with a small gift she hoped would change their relationship to the technology: a brief movie, illustrated with photos taken during the initial visit and narrated in Hindi. The students' excitement at seeing "themselves, their school, their goats, their water pump, their headmaster, their village" on screen was uncontainable, she recalled. And what came next, she added, "was perhaps predictable - the children took over the technology, creating their own movies."

For courses she conducts at UC Berkeley, Hull shares her interest in the educational potential of technology in settings closer to home - inner-city East Bay schools, where her students take on tutoring and mentoring roles in literacy and digital storytelling efforts. A former student, Mark Jury, said Hull was a major influence in his mid-life redirection into graduate school and teaching.

"Glynda has an exceptional knack for tracking the emotional pulse of her students," said Jury, now an assistant professor at the University at Albany in New York. "She always seems to know just what gestures to make to boost sagging spirits, to encourage perseverance, to ease the multiple anxieties that always seem just over the shoulders of grad students."

Martha Olney
Department of Economics
College of Letters & Science

This is not the first time that Martha Olney, adjunct professor of economics, has been honored for her teaching. In 1997, the Economic History Association awarded her its annual Jonathan Hughes Prize for Excellence in Teaching. Asked at that time for the key to her success in the classroom, she spelled out her answer: R-E-S-P-E-C-T. "Treat your students the way you'd like to be treated," she added.

Two of her most important qualities, said David Switzer, a former student of Olney's who today is a graduate student in economics at Washington University in St. Louis, are that "she cares about her students and cares about economics."

Olney, an Oakland native, teaches large lecture courses and seminars to undergraduates on topics ranging from money and banking to U.S. economic history, economic principles, and macroeconomics. Teaching at UC Berkeley, she said, means working with some of the brightest students in the country, "which is great fun and keeps me on my toes. It also provides me with the opportunity to teach in a public school, which I value."

As a mentor to undergraduates, Olney advises her students to follow their hearts. "Figure out what you love, what makes you groove, what turns you on, and major in that," she said. "Life is too short to not do what you love."

Olney considers herself fortunate, because she's doing just that. She started thinking of teaching in high school, thanks to an inspirational math teacher. She went on to earn a bachelor's degree in economics and mathematics from the University of Redlands in 1978, and her master's and PhD in economics from UC Berkeley in 1980 and 1985, respectively.

She'll pass on her wisdom to graduates of all majors on May 15 as faculty speaker for the Class of 2003 Commencement Convocation at the Greek Theater.

Jeffrey Reimer
Chemical Engineering
College of Chemistry

When teaching freshmen the wonders of chemical engineering, Jeffrey Reimer has been known to bring his Yamaha 750 sport bike into class to discuss the motorcycle's catalytic converter and fuel-injection system. "I admit it's a little bit of grandstanding, but students get interested when they can see the result of what they're studying," he said.

Similarly, he draws upon his love of cooking - students give a unanimous thumbs-up to his pizza-from-scratch recipe - to jump-start discussion of the work chemical engineers do, in this case, scaling up to industrial food production.

Perhaps more than most professors, Reimer has thought a lot about what it means to teach and how to measure success. He constantly tweaks his approach, and considers teaching a continuing experiment. Said one former student: "I have never known any teachers who viewed teaching with such dedication to their students, and with such devotion to the analysis and continual improvement of his own method of teaching."

When a difficult introductory class seemed to be driving away many potential chemical engineering majors, Reimer took it upon himself to write a livelier introductory textbook. Thanks to the new text, "I've noticed in the courses I teach that I now have far fewer students dropping out," he said. "I see a lot of these people at graduation." His coauthor, Mike Duncan at Cornell University, reports similar success. The book, now in its third printing, has captured about 10 percent of the market for introductory chemical engineering texts.

In class, Reimer continually draws on current events, such as environmental spills, to make potentially dry classes come alive. "He makes a concerted effort to discuss the social contexts of chemical engineering," one former student said. Reimer's own research on materials for solar cells, fuel cells and batteries provides many real-world examples. As a motorcycle enthusiast, he noted, it's ironic that this work "is aimed at eliminating the internal-combustion engine."

Reimer insists on learning each student's name, even when he has 150 students in class, and demands class participation. "The trick is how you speak to people when you call on them. By the middle of the semester, people realize I will not put them in a position where their peers can make fun of them."

Not surprisingly, Reimer created a course to teach graduate students how to teach, and has since developed it into a graduate seminar that is required in the department.

Reimer, who also is associate dean of UC Berkeley's Graduate Division, sums up his teaching philosophy by quoting educator Henrietta Mears: "A teacher hasn't taught until a student has learned."