Physics graduate student receives the Garrett T. Heberlein Endowed Award for Excellence in Teaching

Iryna Hatala, a Wayne State University Ph.D. student in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, was recently selected as a 2024 recipient of the Garrett T. Heberlein Endowed Award for Excellence in Teaching for Graduate Students.

Student Iryna Hatala wearing a blue coat and carrying a small white bag
Graduate student Iryna Hatala

This award, established by contributions from former Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School Gary Heberlein, recognizes Wayne State graduate students who provide exceptional instruction and acknowledges teaching as a beneficial part of graduate education.

Over the past three years, Hatala has worked as a graduate teaching assistant for five different classes within the physics and astronomy department, including three introductory physics courses for undergraduate students.

Hatala describes her teaching style as “act and learn,” which is a creative approach that allows students to immerse themselves in practice simulations while actively involving them in discussions that expand on material relevance outside of the classroom. She enjoys the opportunity to share her knowledge with students and learn by teaching.

Department Chair, Dr. Ed Cackett nominated Hatala for the award, stating “Iryna cares deeply about the students and thrives in working with small groups of students in problem-solving classes.”

Hatala has demonstrated an exemplary dedication to ensuring her teaching style is beneficial for all learners. She uses techniques such as providing example scenarios to illustrate concepts, asking questions to allow students to reach their own conclusions, and writing out formulas to summarize information.

One student shared, “What sets Iryna apart is her remarkable blend of knowledge, kindness, and patience, which she consistently demonstrates in her interactions with students.”

Hatala describes her goals to be creating a positive learning environment for students to ask questions, being available to provide additional help, and for her students to leave class with a smile and more knowledge than they came in with.

“It is important that we celebrate those who go above and beyond to help students succeed,” Dr. Cackett stated, “and take the opportunity to thank them for their dedication and passion.”

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