A Thank You Note from Eta Kappa Nu to the 2020-2021 Outstanding Teacher Award Winners
From the Officers of Eta Kappa Nu, Beta Mu
On April 16, 2021, Dr. Linda Wills and Dr. Jeffery Hurley were announced as the winners of the Eta Kappa Nu Outstanding Teacher Award at the ECE Spring Picnic. Dr. Hurley received the Richard M. Bass/Eta Kappa Nu Outstanding Junior Teacher Award; he is a senior research scientist in the Electronic Systems Laboratory at the Georgia Tech Research Institute. Dr. Wills received the W. Marshall Leach/Eta Kappa Nu Outstanding Teacher Award; she is an associate professor in ECE.
Dr. Wills and Dr. Hurley joined the ranks of many distinguished Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) professors who have won the award, including Dr. Jim McClellan and the late Dr. Marshall Leach. Unlike the previous recipients during their winning years, Dr. Wills and Dr. Hurley spent less time lecturing in the classroom and more time implementing their lessons in a virtual format as they taught students scattered across the world during the Covid-19 pandemic. As a special tribute, Eta Kappa Nu wanted to shine light on how these professors successfully created an effective learning environment during the pandemic through the perspectives of the ECE students they have taught.
“Dr. Hurley taught ECE 2036 during my spring 2020 semester, and I remembered he was a great lecturer who placed emphasis on the technical skills learned through the homework and lab assignments. I attended his office hours, and he helped me debug my code or clarified programming concepts. However, Covid-19 forced him to instantly change his lesson plans to teach virtually, and I had reservations about how online instruction could replace the in-person lectures and office hours that I found so helpful. Yet, Dr. Hurley managed to provide the same level of instruction virtually and was forgiving and kind during a time when students needed kindness. Whether he is talking to you in person or online, he exudes a calm presence and inspires confidence in his instructions and guidance. With the onset of remote learning, his course was one of the few courses I did not have much worries over because I know he set me up to succeed, regardless of the scenario.” - Christopher Saetia
“I took ECE 2035 with Dr. Wills back in Fall 2020, the first full semester of coronavirus. While lectures were fully remote, it was clear that Dr. Wills didn’t want to be behind a screen; she cared about her students and wanted to connect with them. One thing that particularly stands out in my mind is how during the first week of class, Dr. Wills told us that we could email her introducing ourselves and telling her about what we did over the summer. I sent her an email telling her about the fun sewing projects that I had worked on. Little did I know I would find a kindred spirit as Dr. Wills replied by sharing her own love for sewing! Being a professor—especially in a virtual environment—is not only about teaching the material, it’s about keeping everyone feeling engaged and together when all the students are feeling isolated. Dr. Wills successfully taught every lecture fully remotely and provided resources to supplement our learning. She was always very flexible and understanding, and she even made the effort to provide a safe in-person workshop to help us with one of our projects. To this day, Dr. Wills is still one of my favorite professors that I have had at Tech, and I am so grateful for her efforts during the pandemic.” - Emily Marshall
Both Dr. Wills and Dr. Hurley hold distinguished titles and positions in the Georgia Tech community. But we, as students, value these professors more for their ability to dissect complicated engineering topics and effectively explain their importance for our future ECE projects, courses, and even careers. The efforts of Dr. Wills and Dr. Hurley's efforts to facilitate a comfortable learning environment during the pandemic were reflected in the CIOS scores based on students’ feedback. In Spring 2021, on a scale from 1 to 5, both professors scored highly above a 4.5 for effectiveness, enthusiasm, and availability.
At the beginning of the Fall 2021 semester, Dr. Wills and Dr. Hurley were shown their nameplates on the Outstanding Teacher Award Tablets on the second floor of Van Leer, and they took photos with their personal award plaques. Despite classes returning to in-person instruction, both professors thoughtfully spoke about the upcoming semester and their concerns and plans for dealing with the coronavirus as they finally get to teach in front of a full classroom again. The coronavirus has not been vanquished, but on behalf of the ECE community, we here at Eta Kappa Nu are grateful to have such amazing professors adapting their lesson plans and caring about the needs of every student in their class, fostering understanding and success even during a crisis.
Writers: Christopher Saetia and Emily Marshall
School of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Last revised October 6, 2021