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Past Winners of the Teacher of the Week

Leandro Castello


The Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research (CIDER) recognizes Leandro Castello, assistant professor of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, for his implementation of a mixed approach to teaching. Dr. Castello emphasizes the importance of designing lectures with a focus on clarity of objectives and organization, while also highlighting the use of class discussions and hands-on assignments that allow for significant student participation and involvement.

Dr. Castello believes that this mixed approach engages his students, aids in the development of thinking abilities, and fosters the processing of new information. Dr. Castello follows three main teaching principles to accommodate a range of learning styles and cultural backgrounds: (1) Strive for didacticism—he usually first simplifies the system of interest to explain concepts and processes by drawing analogies that relate to the day-to-day lives of the students. Analogies can be simplistic, but they set the stage to introduce the complexity of natural ecosystems. (2) Keep the students engaged—Students maintain interest if he does not recite material to them, but instead tries to have a conversation with them. He lectures as little as possible and maximizes discussion and practice time on matters that force students to use the concepts of his teaching. (3) Show the way—Above all, he strives to have students be independent and critical thinkers. He tries not to provide students with answers but rather indicate the literature, tools, and approaches they should consider so they find what they are looking for.

Dr. Castello shared, “since coming to Virginia Tech, my teaching has been much improved by the Teaching Certificate program offered by CIDER, and I have put effort in developing my courses.” Some students who took his undergraduate course Fisheries Techniques last fall had this to say:

• The instructor “described the textbook chapters and their concepts in more of a summary way and had class discussion that allowed me to think harder about solutions to problems that are occurring in the world today.”

• The instructor “rephrase things to promote clarity, use examples, and promote class discussions” [sic]. “Tested my thoughts on topics in class. Made us interpret concepts instead of just regurgitating what he taught.”

• The instructor “always offered feedback on assignments and really fostered an atmosphere which encouraged me to work more diligently and improve the quality of my work.”

• The instructor “is a great teacher that really cares about his students and makes sure that he gives them the most opportunity for each and every one of them to be successful by being available for students to come in and ask him questions about concepts that they didn't understand in class.”

• “Favorite course this semester and favorite professor for sure.”

Dr. Castello’s teaching effectiveness score according to the SPOT survey of Fisheries Techniques last fall was higher than the departmental average. This semester, as Dr. Castello teaches the course Systems Conservation of Animal Populations for the first time, he is looking forward to receiving feedback regarding graduate students’ perceptions of the course and discovering ways he can work to improve instruction.


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