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Past Winners of the Teacher of the Week

Leyla Nazhandali


The Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research (CIDER) recognizes Leyla Nazhandali, associate professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, for innovative teaching methods that stimulate active participation from students, and for original outreach to attract high school students to the computer engineering curriculum.

Dr. Nazhandali is a genuinely gifted teacher in the electrical and computer engineering department. She teaches computer architecture classes to sophomores as well as graduate students, and is known as a lively and engaging teacher. Her office hours are always crowded with students, and she regularly has to move the whole group into a separate meeting room to discuss and to make sure that everyone has a chance to meet. Her teaching style is a middle ground between "straight lecturing" and "inverted classroom." In this model, the students first learn for half of the class about a new topic. At the end of that, Dr. Nazhandali gives them a problem to work on, and the whole class wrestles with it. The problem is left unfinished so that the students can "sleep on" the material and hopefully work on it independently at home. At the next class, there is again half a lecture of new material, and then the problem from the previous lecture is finished. Thus, her classroom is an engaging environment focused on critical thinking and authentic learning experiences.

Dr. Nazhandali actively participated in teaching engineering freshman students in order to introduce them to the benefits of computer engineering. As part of an NSF award to revise ENGE 1104, she developed and presented two lectures on embedded microprocessors, which was accompanied by a hands-on project on how embedded processors are utilized to create smart vehicles. While little to no programming skills were required from the students, they still could learn how embedded microprocessors can better our lives. This project was later awarded first prize in the IEEE Real World Engineering Project contest.

Besides attracting freshman to computer engineering, Dr. Nazhandali has extensively participated in outreach and summer camp activities associated with CEEDS. In 2008 and 2009, she participated in Women in Computing Day, which is the biggest event organized each year by the Association for Women in Computing. The purpose of this program is to encourage school girls to explore career options in science and technology. Dr. Nazhandali developed a programming project using a small toy car that was designed and assembled in a Virginia Tech lab. This way the students learned some of the concepts behind embedded systems as well as the impact of computer engineering in the field of autonomous vehicles. In 2010, she volunteered for a NASA-INSPIRE camp and in 2011, she volunteered for C-Tech2 camp. Both camps are organized by the Center for Enhancement of Engineering Diversity and target female high school students.


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