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2009 Distinguished Teaching Awards Mini-Classes

Reading Shakespeare's Nasty Sonnets: How Love is not Always Love When the Bard is Doing It
John Webster, 2009 Distinguished Teaching Awardee
People think of Shakespeare's sonnets as odes to love, sweet love, and indeed, at least one or two actually are. But more often, Shakespeare's sonnets are less about love's sweetness than about how it has gone sour. In this class, we'll look at how Shakespeare's theatrical instincts enable him to strike sharp-tongued fire into some of his darkest erotic moments.

Correlation, Causation and That Amazing Rooster!
Laura Little, 2005 Distinguished Teaching Awardee
You may remember the story of the barnyard rooster who was convinced his crowing caused the sun to rise. Although we tend toward greater sophistication in our thinking and reasoning than the rooster, you'd be surprised at how often we make the same mistake.

Fly Me to the Moon: Johannes Kepler and the Science of Spacecraft Orbits
Mehran Mesbahi, 2005 Distinguished Teaching Awardee
In this class we will discuss Kepler's laws of planetary motion and their applications for designing spacecraft orbits around the earth and for interplanetary transfers.

2009 Distinguished Teaching Awards Bios


Lisa Coutu, 2003 Distinguished Teaching Awardee

Senior Lecturer
School of Communication
Lisa Coutu, Senior Lecturer, specializes in the study of communication and culture, the ethnography of communication and discourse analysis. In particular, her research interests involve the study of how groups' ways of speaking are created and maintained within the context of coexisting and competing ways of speaking. She teaches undergraduate courses in language, culture, communication and interviewing, as well as the department's survey course of the field of communication. She is a 2003 recipient of the University of Washington's Distinguished Teaching Award.


Laura Little

Senior Lecturer
Department of Psychology, College of Arts & Sciences
Laura Little teaches and is a leader in implementing curricular reform and improvement in the core undergraduate courses offered by the Department of Psychology. She engages both pre-majors and majors in discussions of complex ideas in her field. In her courses, she challenges her students to engage the world as a scientist. Her course evaluations are among the highest in the Department, and she is clearly passionate about her students and their learning (both in and outside the classroom).

Mehran Mesbahi, 2005 Distinguished Teaching Awardee

Associate Professor
Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, College of Engineering
Mehran Mesbahi received his Ph.D. from USC in 1996. He was a member of the Guidance, Navigation, and Analysis group at JPL from 1996-2000 and an Assistant Professor of Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics at University of Minnesota from 2000-02. He is currently an Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the University of Washington. He was the recipient of NSF CAREER Award (2001), NASA Space Act Award (2004), UW Distinguished Teaching Award (2005), and UW College of Engineering Innovator Award for Teaching (2008). His research interests are aerospace systems, distributed and networked systems, and engineering applications of optimization and combinatorics.

Catrin Pittack, 2009 Distinguished Teaching Awardee

Senior Lecturer
Department of Biological Structure, School of Medicine
Catrin "Cat" Pittack has been an anatomy geek since grade school, where she could often be found in her brother's room reading "The Human Body"—a book so large she had to crouch over it on the floor. She received her BS in Biochemistry from the University of Massachusetts and then moved to Seattle to attend graduate school at the University of Washington. After receiving her Ph.D. in the Department of Biological Structure in 1996 studying the molecular signals of eye development, she took a break from research to become a massage therapist, a field where she could learn more about the human body and talk to clients about their ailments. After teaching anatomy at a local massage school, Cat found her calling and decided to try teaching at a new level. She joined the Department of Biological Structure in 1999 and has been teaching human anatomy to undergraduates, medical, dental and nursing students ever since. Cat believes that one of the best teaching tools for inspiring students to want to learn is teachers who exude enthusiasm about the subject matter. She strives to do this every time she walks into the classroom.

Shanga Parker, 2006 Distinguished Teaching Awardee

Associate Professor
School of Drama, College of Arts & Sciences
Shanga Parker, Head of the BA program, teaches Acting and Directing in the PATP and BA programs. He received the Distinguished Teaching Award at the UW in 2006. Parker has acted professionally in regional theatres including A Contemporary Theatre, Rites and Reason Theatre, Intiman Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, Tacoma Actors Guild, South Coast Repertory, Actor's Theatre of Louisville and at the International Theatre Festival in Sibiu, Romania. He has also directed at the Rites and Reason Theatre, Ball State University and the Public Theatre of Kentucky. Television credits include Married...with Children, Family Matters and Fresh Prince of Bel Air. He received his training at Brown University and UC San Diego and is a member of AEA, SAG and AFTRA.

John Webster, 2009 Distinguished Teaching Award

Associate Professor
Department of English, College of Arts & Sciences
John Webster has taught at the University of Washington since 1972, arriving with a BA from UCLA and a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley. He has specialized in Renaissance literature, literary theory, expository writing, and pedagogy, and has published articles on Sidney, Spenser, Renaissance rhetoric and poetics, and the teaching of literature.

From 1986 to 1994 he ran the English Department's first-year writing programs (annual enrollments of approximately 6000), and has worked over the past 10 years in a variety of English Department and University mentoring programs for teachers of writing and teachers of literature. From 2000-05 he was University Director of the Puget Sound Writing Project, a professional development program for K-12 teachers in Western Washington State.

In 1998 he was selected by the Carnegie Academy for the Advancement of Teaching to participate in the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. He has also served on the Modern Language Association's Executive Committee for the Division of Teaching as a Profession. In spring of 2000 he received the Department of English's Distinguished Teaching Award. Since 1979 he has led the UW's biennial London Theatre and Concert Tour, the most recent version having been staged in March 2008. His next tour will take place in March 2010. See: www.faculty.washington.edu/cicero

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