‘The questions and ideas from students also make me a better researcher’
‘Yamila Miguel brings along immense enthusiasm that sparks over to the students in the lectures,’ her students say about her. ‘She inspires us as scientists-to-be.’ The astronomer teaches master’s students with great passion and interactivity about exoplanets. She has been nominated for the faculty award Teacher of the Year.
What does this nomination mean to you?
‘The fact that the students nominated me, means that they like my classes and teaching style. That already makes me feel like a winner, even if I don’t get the award. I am really happy about this. It means I am on the right path as it is important to me that the students learn while having fun and enjoying my lectures.’
What makes teaching so fun to you?
‘Teaching really grounds me, it is fun and it is a way of learning for me too. It doesn’t matter which topic I am teaching, I am always learning new things when I prepare my classes. Hearing the students’ ideas and questions also makes me think and see the problems from a different perspective. That makes me a better researcher as well. I also like to connect with the students. For me teaching is a way of having fun, of gaining new ideas and of course to form the next generation of Exo-planeteers!’
Miguel teaches a master’s course on Exoplanets. Exoplanets are planets orbiting a star other than the sun.The course teaches students about the physics of planet’s interiors and atmospheres, both for solar system planets and exoplanets.
What was a special teaching moment for you?
‘Being nominated for this prize feels very special. But also knowing that some students decide to do some of their research projects in the master’s on exoplanets because they liked my course!’
How do you get the best out of all students?
‘Engagement in my classes is very important to me. I like to ask lots of questions rather than giving answers and then hear the students ideas. Before the class, I assign them scientific articles to present and discuss together. These papers are both fundamental papers on the topic, but also recent ones. I want to connect the classes with research that is happening right now.
Last but not least, I make fun assignments so stuents can learn while having fun. For example, in the last class they are divided in teams and each team has to do research and present their findings on a specific type of planet (e.g. Giant planets, or terrestrial planets, etc). Then they have to present it in a fun and original way. Over the years, we had students presenting it as a “travel agency” several “TV shows” and even someone reading a story! That makes a very fun end of the course.’
Do you have you a tip for other teachers?
‘I think a good teacher is someone that learns together with the students and cares about their ideas and theories. And you need to be an engaging and enthusiastic speaker that likes the topic you are teaching! If you don’t enjoy it, students see it in the result.
I also think a good teachers cares about the wellbeing of their students and recognise that they are persons with needs and problems. We need to be aware that students are bringing their lives into the classroom. That is also important to fight biases and allow everyone to express themselves in a safe way.’
Our students play a key role in this election: student members of the educational committees nominate their favourite teacher. The chairs of our study associations and the assessor from the Faculty Board form the jury and decide who will be awarded the Faculty Award for Teaching.
All facultary prizes will be will be awarded at the Leiden Science New Year's reception on 9 January.