FAU’s best teachers … sort of

Teaching evaluations aren’t perfect, but here are SPOTs’ best teachers from each of the university’s seven undergraduate colleges


Courtesy of Pixabay

Joe Pye, Senior Writer

Relying on a numerical figure shouldn’t be a real way to measure a professor’s teaching abilities, said Richard Freishtat, teaching evaluations researcher and director of the University of California Berkeley Center for Teaching and Learning.

But when determining promotions, the university looks at the average score to SPOTs’ sixth question — “Rate your instructor’s overall teaching effectiveness in this course: Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, and Poor.”

Looking at over 6,500 classes from summer 2016-17, we put together a list of SPOTs’ best undergraduate teachers from each college, based on those whose classes had the most “excellent” response rates.

College of Arts and Letters: Julie A. Ward

Julie A. Ward received a score of excellent from 90 percent of her spring 2017 Topics: Sculpture Studio class.

She attributed this to her flexible teaching styles.  

“As area head of Sculpture for the past four years at FAU I allow myself to shift back and forth from professor to facilitator, facilitator to professor. I teach students how to make all kinds of things such as sculptural objects, videos, 3D prints, and sound installations,” Ward said via email. “The thing I love most about my job is teaching FAU’s art students to think critically, research ethically, and trust their own ideas.”

Because FAU doesn’t publish SPOTs’ written reviews, we had to find students’ opinions elsewhere.

Across the board, her anonymous reviews on RateMyProfessors matched up with SPOTs’ results, with students saying:

“Professor Ward gives honest feedback to push work to the next level. She is good about giving a good balance of assignments to develop different skills – conceptual art, craftsmanship, reading, research, roundtable discussions, presentations, and writing assignments. We had 3 projects, but we had time to do one more.”


“Julie is a great instructor, and will get you out of your comfort zone. She is driven and committed to her field.”

Professor Cynthia L. Wilson. Illustration by Ivan Benavides

College of Education: Cynthia L. Wilson

Cynthia L. Wilson received a score of excellent from 100 percent of her spring 2017 Collaborations with Professionals and Families sections.

Wilson credited part of her success to her students.  

“My college students’ own shared diverse experiences provide concrete opportunities to talk about and experience the diversity of school-aged students with disabilities and their families,” she said via email. “My desire is that they leave my class with a holistic point of view about teaching that asserts K-12 education is at its best when professionals and families collaborate.”

Students’ reviews on RateMyProfessors reflected SPOTs’ numbers:

“LOVE Her. Great teacher. Very intelligent woman. The best in the ESE department.”


“Excellent professor. Yes you have to do some work, but it is definitely not unnecessary or unreasonable. Her outline is clear, she answers your questions and makes you feel completely at ease.”

Professor Khaled Sobhan. Illustration by Ivan Benavides

College of Engineering and Computer Science: Khaled Sobhan

Khaled Sobhan received a score of excellent from 38 percent of his fall 2016 Soil Mechanics classes. This was the highest class response rate with excellent marks in the college over a year.   

Sobhan didn’t respond as of publication time to request for comment.

Students on RateMyProfessors agreed with SPOTs’ findings:

“Soban is one of the best teachers that you will have in Civil Engineering at FAU, he explains things thoroughly and repeats many concepts. He even hints in class what will be on the exam. Study a lot though, Soil Mechanics, Foundations and Pavement were all very hard classes but learning it right can help you pass the FE, so stuck it up and study”


“Soil mechanics is hard. He will give you test! Study from notes and DO NOT MISS CLASS. Whatever he talks about in class, it will be on the test so the book is of not much help. He is very passionate and energetic in class so you won’t fall asleep. Stay above average and do well on the final and the consolidation lab. Bring voice recorder if needed.”

Professor Naelys Luna. Illustration by Ivan Benavides

College for Design and Social Inquiry: Naelys Luna

Naelys Luna received a score of excellent from 81.8 percent of her summer 2016 Mindfulness and Social Work sections.

She didn’t respond as of publication time to request for comment.

Overall, students’ reviews on RateMyProfessors supported her SPOTs’ score:

“Professor Naely is one of the best professors at FAU. I commend her ability to be humorous, which relaxes her students, and this makes everyone in the class participate comfortably. She inspires and empowers her students. I wish that I was able to take her again. Please take her if you are not a student who wants a handout.”


“Very knowledgeable and helps you learn the concepts. She is passionate. You can tell she loves what she does and it helps to have that in a professor; it helps you learn. Also, she is hilarious! Absolutely wonderful! Take her, you won’t regret it!”

Professor Michael J. Gauci. Illustration by Ivan Benavides

College of Business: Michael J. Gauci

Michael J. Gauci received a score of excellent from 100 percent of his fall 2016 Government & Not-For-Profit Accounting classes.

Gauci said he feels “blessed” to be teaching at FAU.

“It is such an honor to teach Governmental and Not-for-Profit Accounting to FAU’s accounting undergraduates,” he said via email. “I am passionate about teaching this niche subject matter to help students pass the CPA exam and go on to become contributing members to South Florida’s business community.  I strive to be the best mentor I can be to my students.”

He added, “I am genuinely excited to be a part of FAU’s College of Business and School of Accounting, and I would not change it for the world.  Serving at FAU is a blessing to me.”

He received mixed reviews on RateMyProfessors:

“Your grade is based on only 3 exams. There is a lot of material covered but it’s made worse by errors in the answer guide and use of outdated terminology. When you’re learning something completely new like governmental accounting, you don’t need this added confusion. He should really change the book to something that’s more concise and up to date.”

And …

“Mr. Gauci is an excellent teacher with real stories and cases from the real world. He is extremely helpful but the material is not easy. Blackboard videos and audios are very helpful. Do the homework and study and there is no reason not to do well. He curves his exams a bit which was a nice surprise.”

Professor Julieta Maria Di Mase. Illustration by Ivan Benavides

College of Science: Julieta Maria Di Mase

Julieta Maria Di Mase received a score of excellent from 75 percent of her spring 2017 Practical Cell Neuroscience sections.

As of publication time, Di Mase hasn’t responded to request for comment.

And despite her high marks, she hasn’t been reviewed on RateMyProfessors.

College of Nursing: Karen Wisdom-Chambers

Karen Wisdom-Chambers received a score of excellent from 75 percent of her summer 2016 Professional Development in Nursing I: Ethical and Legal Perspectives of Caring classes.

She remains grateful to FAU, her alma mater, for her understanding of the subject.

“As a graduate of FAU, College of nursing, returning as an instructor is very important to me as I am able to impart some of the knowledge to (my students) that I received from the highly qualified educators here at FAU,” she said via email.

“What I enjoyed most about teaching the Legal & Ethical Perspective of Caring course was the opportunity to teach our students to recognize their individual beliefs and values and develop their personal philosophy of nursing emerging from the College of Nursing philosophy of caring in which they can use to guide their profession,” she added. “Also, to understand the legal, ethical and moral responsibility of the nurse in the healthcare settings.”

Students’ reviews on RateMyProfessors matched up with SPOTs’ numbers:  

“Best professor at FAU. She is extremely caring and she will go out her way to help you if you don’t ask. I would definitely take her again!”


“Professor Chambers is amazing. Don’t expect to just “float along” and hope to do well, because that won’t happen. You should put in the work to receive a good grade.”

Joe Pye is the SPOTs special issue writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @jpeg3189.  

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