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From Haas to EECS, meet the four newest winners of the distinguished teaching award

By Public Affairs

students in classroom

Keegan Houser photo

UC Berkeley faculty selected four of their peers to receive the 2018 Distinguished Teaching Award, the campus’ most prestigious teaching honor.

The award recognizes teaching that incites intellectual curiosity in students, engages them thoroughly in the enterprise of learning, and has a lifelong impact. Read short profiles of the four 2018 winners below.

John DeNero, assistant teaching professor in electrical engineering and computer science

John DeNero

John DeNero

DeNero is a highly regarded and beloved instructor, whose passion has inspired countless students. EECS Chair James Demmel lauded DeNero’s “innovative approaches to education [as] redefining how we teach computer science.”

DeNero has enthusiastically taken on larger and larger class sizes as his department, and the university, continue to grow. DeNero himself articulates his teaching goal as not aiming to make students happy. What he really wants is to help students learn how to solve problems that they thought they couldn’t solve. When that happens, the effect is transformative and students build confidence and enthusiasm in addition to understanding,

DeNero has a knack for grabbing attention, exciting students, and in many ways, serves as a pioneer. Perhaps most worthy of praise are his efforts at scale – effectively teaching classes in the thousands to majors and non-majors alike, while attending to underrepresented minority and gender dynamics in a traditionally male-dominated discipline.

Mary Kelsey, continuing lecturer in sociology

Mary Kelsey

Mary Kelsey

Kelsey is “in a class of her own,” said departmental nominator Michael Burawoy. He goes on to say: “In the sphere of undergraduate education no-one comes anywhere near her record. Perhaps, some of her colleagues do well in one class or another for a short time, but nothing like her sustained excellence over nearly two decades. When one considers the courses she teaches her accomplishment becomes even more remarkable.”

One of the secrets of Kelsey’s success is the care with which she prepares her courses — working directly with the lived experience of the students, and then working that lived experience up into a sociological analysis, using classic texts in the area. Because she is interested in motivating her students not just to learn sociology, but also to do sociology, she applied for and won the Mellon Faculty Fellowship for Undergraduate Research.

Kelsey excels at all levels of undergraduate education, whether it be in the huge introductory lecture class, her very popular course on the family, the honors sequence or individual mentoring. Kelsey explains in her own words that “while I would love to claim that my well-chosen, scholarly readings and scintillating lectures can turn the most ardent individualist into a disciple of Marx, Durkheim or Weber, I’ve discovered that students best learn sociology by doing sociology.”

Rudy Mendoza-Denton, professor of psychology

Rudy Mendoza-Denton

Rudy Mendoza-Denton

Mendoza-Denton was praised by his nominating chairs for his teaching accomplishments and philosophy, paired with his sustained and wide-ranging commitment to the teaching mission of our university.

Teaching courses on such topics such as stigma and prejudice present unique challenges – challenges Mendoza-Denton addresses directly with rigor, purpose, intentionality, and the right dose of humor. Over the years, his work and scholarly/professional commitments have become increasingly focused on improving educational outcomes and the bettering intergroup relations in society.

He has translated this exciting research agenda into the development of his courses, which he has been teaching at Berkeley for over a decade. In doing so, Mendoza-Denton has gone above and beyond in his pedagogical efforts, and the innovations he has developed and implemented over the years.

In his own words, Mendoza-Denton reflects the philosophical underpinnings which drive his teaching practice: “Teaching is not only about the transmission of knowledge. It’s not just about writing formulas or psychological theories on the board and waiting for students to upload the knowledge that I impart. Instead, it’s about taking care of the whole student- their feelings, their struggles, their ideas.”

Panos Patatoukas, associate professor of business

Panos Patatoukas

Pano Patatoukas

Patatoukas takes immense pride in his teaching and brings a depth of knowledge, passion, energy  and infectious enthusiasm to his classes, report nominating deans Yano and Stowsky. They go on to recount how “students manifestly recognize and acknowledge Patatoukas’ pride and actualization as a teacher through their comments, which are not only effusively praising, but have generated continued and growing active student interest in an accounting elective course. He effectively blends theory with practice by applying key interdisciplinary concepts from accounting, finance, economics, and business strategy to valuation and financial decision-making issues.”

Patatoukas’ teaching does not compete with his research, but rather his research informs his teaching and rewards him with new ideas, many of which grew into research papers that are now either published or under review. In addition, he offers current and real-life experiences for his students to connect with the content of his courses, using original case studies to enhance the student learning experience. A passion for accounting and finance sit at the core of who Patatoukas is as a teacher.

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