brings laughter, fun to the classroom
By Paula King
East County Times
he is conducting a lecture on a challenging scientific concept or playing music
that he composes, Los Medanos College professor Durwynne Hsieh is a performer
"There is a performance aspect of giving a lecture, and I love it when
they laugh at my really bad jokes," the 45-year-old biology instructor
19 years of teaching at the Pittsburg campus, Hsieh recently received the
annual Teacher of the Year honor for the Contra Costa Community College
District. Hsieh's colleagues at LMC selected him for the award, which rotates
among the district's three colleges.
will be recognized along with other educators from across the county at a
celebration this fall.
is admired by colleagues and students for being multitalented, funny and
creative. Former colleague Jo Ann Cookman says Hsieh
writes his own lab manuals to make sure the lessons are interesting and
relevant to the pre-nursing students who take human physiology and
is never boring. After 20 years, he is still fresh and comes up with new
ideas," she says. "That is what makes him a great teacher. He is not
MIT and UC Berkeley graduate strives to make lab activities as practical as
possible. For instance, Hsieh leads an experiment on chemical reactions where
the students bake bread and then get to eat the data afterward.
do try to be fun and creative. I try to keep it light in the classroom,"
the Antioch resident says.
to fellow LMC biology instructor Mark Lewis, Hsieh is a naturally gifted
teacher who was hired full time right out of grad school, which is rare at
community colleges. Lewis describes him as a calm, humorous and creative
academic who introduced two popular lab manuals to the science department, and
designed group lab activities that foster classroom camaraderie and student
teachers like Durwynne are all aware that teaching is a skill that can never be
fully mastered because there is no one perfect way to teach all students in all
classes. Every semester is like a new dance with a new partner, and Durwynne is
always trying out new moves and adjusting to his new partners," Lewis says.
says he has remained at the community college level because of the unique
student population, from self-motivated learners to those with language
barriers. Hsieh says he also enjoys working with nursing students because they
are so motivated.
thing I like about the LMC students is that they receive my teaching very
gratefully. I feel like I can do some good there, and they need me," he
animated personality made science fun for former student Jennifer Stuart.
makes his subject pretty interesting," she said. "Biology is one of
my favorite subjects because of him."
he is not improving the educational atmosphere at LMC, Hsieh composes classical
music with the cello and piano. The accomplished musician performs at local
gigs, and he composed his debut piece in the first grade.
love of music and passion for education come from his Chinese parents. They
stressed assimilation, and they exposed him to classical music while growing up
in upstate New York.
had the chemistry set when I was a kid. I would go around the neighborhood, and
get old TVs and take them apart and figure out how they worked," he says.
"My mom was a teacher, so I always saw myself as a teacher."
King covers East County. Reach her at 925-779-7189 or email@example.com.