David Cass (1996)

cassAffiliation at the time of the award: University of Alberta, Biological Sciences.

Citation: David Cass has been a professor at the University of Alberta since 1969, and has taken a strong interest in teaching throughout his career. He has managed to maintain a keen interest in teaching while doing basic research on plant embryo development. That research has recently resulted in a patented technique of which Dr. Cass is a co-inventor. The course evaluations for David Cass have always been in the excellent range and testify to his effective and “student friendly” teaching style. His courses are known for their rigor, and he continues to assess and refine their content and delivery and how best to assist his students with their learning. For example, he now uses a series of PowerPoint slides to introduce concepts in all of his courses. These serve as “the menu” to the detailed lecture which Dr. Cass tends to present as a blackboard talk; the menu is given to each student. In recognition of his teaching ability, David Cass has been recognized by his own university in 1988 when he received the Faculty of Science Award for Excellence in Teaching and in 1990 when he received the A.C. Rutherford Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. The Rutherford Award is the highest teaching award given by the University of Alberta.

David Cass shares his interest in teaching with others by serving on university committees concerned with teaching, by serving as a teaching mentor to graduate students and colleagues, by supporting the work of University Teaching Services by giving talks on teaching techniques, and by serving as a peer consultant for other professors or graduate student teachers who request help with their teaching. He has served two terms as a member of the University Teaching Award Committee and last year was its chair. David Cass’s contributions to science education extend beyond the classroom and he has made many science presentations on television programs, to the general public, to high school students and teachers, elementary schools, and to kindergarten classes. A favorite presentation is to new students at the University of Alberta in which he attempts to give new students insight in what to expect in their classes and how best to manage their new learning experiences at a large university. Last October, David gave talks at public schools during “literacy week”; these talks are designed to emphasize the importance of literacy in science but also in everyday life. In recognition of David’s numerous contributions outside the university, in 1997 he was given the University of Alberta Board of Governors Award of Distinction for helping to strengthen the ties between the University and the community.