Excellence in Teaching: Mitchell Theys

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.

Mitchell Theys. UIC Engineering/Jim Young
Mitchell Theys. UIC Engineering/Jim Young

Mitchell Theys
Clinical associate professor of computer science

Years at UIC: More than 20

What does it mean to win an Excellence in Teaching Award?
Winning the award is a great honor. It means my colleagues feel that my teaching deserves recognition and that I’m doing an outstanding job teaching students.

What do you teach?
I currently focus on teaching courses in the required hardware sequence for computer science students. I have taught a variety of courses over my 20 years at UIC.

How do you engage students in your courses?
When we were in person, I used clickers and asked the students questions during the lecture. Now that we are online, I rely more on interactive exercises in their textbook to have the students interact with the material. I try to be available for the students, whether it’s answering questions on the course discussion board, interacting after a lecture, socializing at departmental events, or writing letters of recommendation for jobs and advanced studies.

What do you enjoy most about teaching at UIC?
I enjoy seeing the students succeed. It can be understanding and completing a difficult project in a course, doing well in the entire course, and/or doing well in the computer science major. I enjoy hearing from students about their doing well in job interviews because of the topics covered in my courses. I try to tell students that grades are not always an accurate measure of a student’s understanding of the material.

What are your research interests? 
As a teaching track faculty, I am not required to do any research. My main responsibility and focus is teaching. Even though I don’t publish the results or get funding to explore options, each time I teach a course I try to revise the material a little based on the previous semester’s experiences. 

What is your advice to students considering a teaching career?
Follow your passion and find something you enjoy pursuing. There are so many options available from tutoring at the high school level, teaching K-12, teaching higher education, that you should find the career that fits with your interests and abilities. 

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