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ECS Prof receives Outstanding Teaching Award

Posted On : October 20th, 2008

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Five years ago, Perry Heedley traded the corporate world for the academic world. It was a good deal for him but maybe a better deal for his students. They not only learn from someone familiar with the rapidly-changing world of computer chip design, they learn from someone who really enjoys being in front of a classroom.

“Teaching was always a natural fit for me,” says Heedley, a professor of electrical and electronic engineering in the College of Engineering and Computer Science. “Even when I was doing my graduate studies, I realized teaching was something I loved and that I was good at it.”

Heedley spent more than a decade in the industry developing integrated circuits that could be used in everything from cell phones to laptop computers. In 2005, he and electrical engineering professor Thomas Mathews co-founded the mixed-signal design laboratory on campus to teach students how to make similar chips.

“As a teacher, you have to really know your subject matter,” he says. “If you have that ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ look, students will pick up on that quickly.”

Equally important, he says, is letting students know you are concerned about them. “It has to come across that you care about their success.”

Like any teacher, Heedley wants his students to do well, but he says he tells them on the first day of class to focus on learning, not the grades.

“A lot of students are too worried about their grades. They’re concerned that if they even get an A-minus, they are behind the curve and are at a disadvantage,” he says. “I try to break them loose from that. I want them to realize we are preparing them for the real game, which is going out and working for a living.”

His students have bought into his style of teaching, and he’s proud to point out that several of his students are spending the summer designing a chip even though the project is not for class and not for credit.

“I think the natural enthusiasm I have for teaching comes across and students who are really going to get excited do get excited about learning,” he says.

That classroom enthusiasm, and his corporate knowledge, helped earn him the 2007-2008 Outstanding Teaching Award.

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