‘Big picture’ approach earns Chemistry prof Teaching Excellence award

The pedagogy that led Costa Metallinos to earn the Faculty of Mathematics and Science Award for Excellence in Teaching isn’t flashy or wild.

He doesn’t pack lectures with buzz words and trends or teach Chemistry in iambic pentameter.

His students and peers appreciate the careful foundational learning approach he uses, where each block of learning builds upon the next and at each step there is a clear ‘big picture’ to tie all the avenues of exploration together.

“Today there is a drive to include evidence-based research and experiential learning in everything we do,” Metallinos said. “Luckily, chemistry is dedicated to evidence, and what are labs if not the crucible of experimentation?”

The Chemistry Professor was honoured with the teaching award Friday, June 17 during Brock’s Spring Convocation, where he also delivered a Convocation address.

During his 19 years at Brock, Metallinos has remained consistent in creating an atmosphere of inquiry. He tries to disarm the fear students may feel toward challenging subjects like organic chemistry, organometallic chemistry and spectroscopy.

“Professor Metallinos takes every opportunity to tune into his students’ needs,” said Ejaz Ahmed, Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics and Science. “He has a talent for removing nervousness in the learning process and creating a classroom where students are encouraged to delve into discussion.”

Even during the pandemic, Metallinos made sure he was teaching live from his office to show his students he’s committed to them.

“I wanted my students to feel that even though they couldn’t be here, that I’m here for them,” he said. “Also, it was important to me that students could freely ask questions, as the material was presented in concept-heavy courses that involve a lot of problem solving.”

Metallinos listens to and learns from student feedback and feels it’s important to adjust as needed. The feedback is almost unanimously positive and, in a gesture reserved mainly for theatrical finales, he has even been given a standing ovation after a lecture.

“I was taken aback when the students rose and clapped,” he said. “That had never happened to me before, but it motivated me to continue trying to make my lectures relatable.”

Ovations are remarkable, but the main reason Metallinos said he enjoys being a professor is seeing the work his students produce.

“Their work is what makes me feel accomplished in teaching,” he said, referencing one recent highlight: the work produced by Ontario Trillium Scholarship winner and PhD Chemistry graduate Maria Laura Sechi.

Sechi and Metallinos, along with Professor Travis Dudding, earned a cover feature in Advanced Synthesis and Catalysis, a leading primary journal in organic, organometallic and applied chemistry. Sechi has since found further success landing a role at the pharmaceutical company Eurofins Alphora.

“Our students apply what we teach them in whatever career they choose,” Metallinos said. “They represent the legacy and quality of what we teach, and I feel that’s a special and motivational reason to put in the work to support them.”

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