Francisco “Pancho” Paz, a PhD student in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UBC, recently received a Killam Graduate Teaching Assistant Award recognizing his outstanding work as a Teaching Assistant and instructor for 2017/2018. The award is awarded annually to 16 UBC Teaching Assistants.
Pancho, who is committed to acadamia, is grateful for the countless opportunities to give back and contribute to post-secondary education. He is humbled by the recognition and credits the people around him for his success.
“I’m going to be honest, I never feel like I’m a good teacher,” says Pancho. “I felt very honoured to receive the award because a huge part of this comes from the recommendation of my supervisor, instructors, colleagues and students.”
Pancho continues to learn and grow from his teaching experiences in order to be a more effective educator. He draws inspiration from teachers that he’s had in the past.
“When I think of past instructors and what stands out the most, they were people who were really passionate and would transmit their work in a meaningful and interesting way,” reflects Pancho. “What makes instructors great is when they care for the student and have a passion for the process of teaching and what they’re teaching.”
Dr. Martin Ordonez, Pancho’s supervisor for the past six years, nominated him for the award and continues to be impressed by his patience and ability to communicate complex concepts to students. It’s clear to him that students and colleagues enjoy working with Pancho.
“Pancho is a leader and role model for other teaching assistants,” says Dr. Ordonez. “He develops strong connections with students and establishes a comfortable, stressless learning environment where students can feel safe to ask questions and are both encouraged and motivated.”
Pancho believes in the importance of putting yourself outside of your comfort zone to learn and grow. As a scholar at the Liu Institute for Global Issues, he is able to collaborate with people from other disciplines. He finds that the biggest challenge is communicating and understanding different ways of thinking.
“The whole social sciences framework is different from natural sciences, which can be very dry as we want to communicate in the most succinct way possible,” explains Paz. “It can be hard to collaborate and find common ground when you come from different backgrounds, but it’s a fantastic opportunity for me to work with people from areas outside of engineering.”
Despite having spent most of his life in academics, Pancho still wakes up excited to go to work everyday. In addition to teaching duties, he is working on research that focuses on power electronics and renewable energy. He’s on the path to graduate at the end of the year and is open to working in the industry, but Paz believes his true calling is in academia.
“I really love teaching and research, so the role of the academic professor will be what I look for first after graduating.”