Excellence in Teaching: Miiri Kotche

Miiri Kotche
Miiri Kotche. Photo: UIC College of Engineering

Each year, UIC honors some of its most dedicated and outstanding teachers with the Award for Excellence in Teaching. The winners, who receive a $5,000 salary increase, are selected by past recipients of the award from nominations made by departments and colleges.

Miiri Kotche
Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs, College of Engineering
Richard and Loan Hill Clinical Professor, Biomedical Engineering 
Director, Innovation Medicine Program, College of Medicine

Years at UIC: 10 years as a faculty member, but I was also a student here. 

What does it mean to win an Excellence in Teaching Award?
Being recognized as a recipient of the Award for Excellence in Teaching is a major honor, and I’m grateful to be at an institution that values excellence in teaching. As the highest award for teaching at UIC, faculty need significant experience and must be nominated by their college. For me personally, this distinction means a lot because I joined UIC with the specific goal to make a positive impact on our students inside and outside of the classroom. I look at previous awardees and feel privileged to be among some of the best, most inspiring instructors I know.   

What do you teach?
I primarily teach biomedical engineering undergraduate students, but often teach interdisciplinary courses in medtech design that also involve medical, design and business students. I also lead and teach medical students enrolled in the Innovation Medicine program.  

How do you engage students in your courses?
The courses I teach are project-based, often sponsored by medical faculty, an industry sponsor, or community partner. Students work in teams to design and physically build a solution, and need to present and share their work with their sponsors, classmates and instructors. This is so much more fun and engaging than the traditional lecturing format, and more relevant to the way engineers actually work in their jobs. Sometimes teams run into dead ends or unforeseen circumstances, but these are also important learning experiences.  

What do you enjoy most about teaching at UIC?
Definitely the students! I am consistently challenged to grow, evolve and expand their experiences to make sure they are prepared to be either engineers or physician innovators who will meet the needs of a rapidly changing healthcare landscape. My students inspire me and keep me motivated. But another big plus for me is the community of faculty and staff around me. I like to collaborate and work with others who have common interests. 

What are your research interests? 
My primary research interest is engineering education to develop and study the impact of instructional and programmatic innovations on student success.   

What is your advice to students considering a teaching career?
I came to teaching after working as an engineer, and I find it very rewarding and full of challenges. I think it’s important to stay positive and open to different ways to meet students where they are, while still keeping high expectations. I try to stay curious and remember there is also a lot to learn from my students about the art and science of teaching.  



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