Professor recognized for dedicating career to inspiring students

September 01, 2022

Headshot of Catherine Takizawa

Catherine Takizawa, associate teaching professor of biology, has impacted many students’ educational experiences through her 11 years at Quinnipiac and has a plethora of thank-you notes from students to show for it.

Takizawa had to adapt to the changing classroom environment during the COVID-19 pandemic and made it her goal to create a space where students can reach their potential amid the turbulence that they were facing socially and educationally.

“I work very hard to create an inclusive and equitable classroom where students are treated with respect by myself and their peers. I view each interaction with a student as an extension of my teaching philosophy which is to make each student feel like a valued member of the Quinnipiac community,” said Takizawa.

For her efforts, Takizawa is being recognized next month with the university’s most prestigious award, the Center for Excellence in Teaching Award.

Takizawa has taught a variety of biology classes in her more than a decade in the classroom and developed many of them herself she said. Along with this, she is an adviser to 15 students as well as the coordinator for the undergraduate portion of the 3+1 BS in Biology/MS in Molecular and Cell Biology.

Through active learning complemented by formative and summative assignments, she has been able to see massive growth in her students’ abilities which is supported by the fact that all of her Biology 102 students passed her course this past year. Knowing that students were anxious going into her course she created a classroom environment where they wouldn’t be afraid to take risks.

“I made sure my expectations were explicit, my directions clear and that I highlighted learning strategies throughout the semester,” she said. “To lessen anxiety, I had students indicate the correct answer to questions in class using sign language. This allowed students to privately answer questions yet I could see the general consensus. When there was confusion, I had the students turn and talk to work through the questions collaboratively. Although this approach isn’t quite innovative, it is effective.”

Takizawa's colleagues describe her as an impactful figure of Quinnipiac.

Sean Riccard ’21, MS ’22, appreciates the diligence that Takiwaza applies to forming her lessons.

“She amazes me with her ability to disseminate complex topics in an easy-to-conceptualize way,” said Riccard. “From taking classes with her as a first-year student to taking more advanced classes, she never stops developing novel ways to explain the topics, share her experiences, and relate what we are learning to real-world scenarios relevant to the lives of her students.”

Professor of Biology and Chair of Biological Sciences Deborah Clark said she appreciates the out-of-classroom efforts that Takizawa makes to enhance her students’ learning.

“She pours her heart and soul into getting to know these students and planning fun activities like tie-dying face masks and socks, designing a T-shirt logo and taking a trip to Mystic Aquarium. She also plans enrichment events such as a panel of scientists in different types of careers, research talks by alumni and speed-dating to learn about food insecurity from different perspectives,” said Clark. “Catherine exemplifies what we hope all faculty members can be.”

Takizawa wants to not only leave an impact on students within the lab and classroom but also wants to leave them with skills to bring with them in their future endeavors.

“I hope that I have modeled how to be a caring human being and how to treat others with respect,” she said. “I hope that they believe in themselves and their abilities because each student is unique and brings their own talents to the table. I hope that they look fondly back at their time at Quinnipiac and realize they have grown as a student and scientist. I hope they can bring a sense of wonder into their lives so they never stop learning and reaching for new knowledge and experiences.”

For future educators and teachers, Takizawa has a lot of knowledge and experience that can be learned from.

“My advice is to be your authentic self. Put yourself in the position of not knowing something and think of the best way to guide someone to the knowledge you want them to emerge with," she advised. "Think about activities that will engage the students in constructing knowledge and don’t be afraid to forge your own path. There is not one right way to teach.”

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