This IIT-M faculty member says students taught him to excel at his job

Rupesh Nasre, who won an award at IIT-Madras’s Institute Day recently, says interacting with students and learning from them helped him become a better teacher

June 30, 2023 11:16 am | Updated 11:16 am IST - CHENNAI 

Rupesh Nasre (left) received the ‘Srimathi Marti Annapurna Gurunath Award for Excellence in Teaching’ from Sridhar Vembu CEO, Zoho Corporation at the 64th Institute Day held in April this year

Rupesh Nasre (left) received the ‘Srimathi Marti Annapurna Gurunath Award for Excellence in Teaching’ from Sridhar Vembu CEO, Zoho Corporation at the 64th Institute Day held in April this year | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Rupesh Nasre learnt the art of teaching from his students. The 43-year-old associate professor of Computer Science & Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IIT-M), was recently awarded the ‘Srimathi Marti Annapurna Gurunath Award for Excellence in Teaching’ at the 64th Institute Day.

Mr. Nasre began his career in the Computer Science and Engineering Department of the Institute, nearly a decade ago, with 15 students. His learning curve began when a student’s review said, “You cannot teach”.

In a competitive institution such as IIT-M where the faculty don several hats -- as teachers, researchers, writers of project proposals and consultants for industries and government departments, student feedback helps, he points out.

“It took me three years to learn the nuances of teaching,” he says. “There are all kinds of students. Students lose interest very fast. There are students who get bored, and there are those who prepare for the class and others who would not talk in class.”

Three other faculty members in his department have won this award previously, and Mr. Nasre says he learnt from them as well. To retain student interest, Mr. Nasre set up projects, came to class a few minutes early, inquired about the students’ previous assignments, and even spoke to them about the food in the canteen. “Once they start talking, they free up and are keen on asking questions,” he says.

Mr. Nasre gives his students flexible deadlines to submit assignments, but with a penalty to prevent being perceived as unfair. He tells students to solve problems individually, but allows them to discuss problems with their neighbour. “Finally we discuss the problem in class. Many times, I take their suggestions. Students know what to do. Essentially, they are deriving the answers.” 

Mr. Nasre, also a recipient of the Young Faculty award in 2016, includes trivia while teaching. “When I am talking about no. 13, a prime number, I tell them about how some hotels skip floor number 13,” he says.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, some students wanted an open book, open internet exam. “I had to work hard on the problems [questions],” reveals Mr. Nasre.

He also learnt to respect students by answering their queries, and repeating answers. “Our students are bright. If I have not prepared, I must not teach the class. I have to be fully thorough when I take classes. No bluffing can help. If I don’t know something, in the class, I should say I don’t know,” he adds. 

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