Four inspiring faculty honored as Distinguished Teachers

John DeNero, Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton, Mary Kelsey, Panos Patatoukas

Four faculty members are singled out this year for one of UC Berkeley’s highest honors, the Distinguished Teaching Award. It recognizes faculty members who stand out for teaching that “incites intellectual curiosity in students, engages them thoroughly in the enterprise of learning and has a lifelong impact.” 

The 2018 awardees, selected by their peers on the Academic Senate’s Committee on Teaching, are:

John DeNero

John DeNero

John DeNero, the Giancarlo Teaching Fellow in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences. DeNero joined the Berkeley faculty in 2014 to focus on undergraduate education in computer science and data science. He teaches and co-develops two of the largest courses on campus: introductory computer science for majors and introductory data science. EECS Chair James Demmel lauds DeNero’s “innovative approaches to education [as] redefining how we teach computer science.” 

“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,” reads his Distinguished Teaching Award citation.

Mary Kelsey

Mary Kelsey

Mary Kelsey, a continuing lecturer in the Department of Sociology. Kelsey is “in a class of her own,” says departmental nominator Michael Burawoy.

According to her award citation, one of the secrets of her 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. Precisely, 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.

Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton

Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton

Rudy Mendoza-Denton, professor in the Department of Psychology. He teachers courses on such topics such as stigma and prejudice, courses that present unique challenges, and addresses them directly “with rigor, purpose, intentionality and the right dose of humor,” his citation reads. For his part, Mendoza-Denton says: “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

Panos Patatoukas

Panos Patatoukas, an associate professor in the Haas School of Business. Patatoukas has helped students find unexpected career paths in finance, launch companies, and open their eyes to the “intrigue, mischief, and opportunity boiling just below the surface of income statements.” For Patatoukas, it’s all in the service a larger purpose: democratizing access to financial information in the interest of a more equal society. 

He takes immense pride in his teaching and brings a depth of knowledge, passion, energy, and infectious enthusiasm to his classes, according to his nominating deans. 

Read more about the 2018 Distinguished Teaching Award recipients