There is a stack of notecards on Ieva Reich’s desk in the Daniels Chemistry Building off University Avenue at UW-Madison.
The cards do not contain equations or formulas. There are no diagrams or talking points on the cards either.
Reich, the soon-to-be retired instructor in the Department of Chemistry, uses the notecards to learn the names of students in her Chemistry lecture—all 300 of them.
“I usually remember most names, but that is getting harder, which is why I am retiring,” Reich said with a laugh last Friday in her office. “Everybody responds to a personal connection. It’s the most important thing you can do as an instructor. I did that by calling on students by name.”
Reich spent 42 years at UW-Madison starting as a researcher and then teaching organic chemistry for the past 17 years. She estimates that 1,500 sophomores take Organic Chemistry 343 and 345 each year, most of whom plan to go into the health field after graduation.
As Reich transitions into retirement, students say they will remember her for the rigorous nature of her courses and her interactive teaching style.
“Few academic disciplines have as many hate groups on Facebook as organic chemistry,” says Mark Kraemer, a former student who will enroll at UW’s School of Medicine and Public Health this fall.
Despite the difficult subject matter, Kraemer found organic chemistry to be “challenging yet incredibly interesting and fun,” thanks to Reich’s engaging lectures.
Coming from a research background, Reich says she was not a natural instructor and that perfecting her teaching style took years of practice. The work has not gone unnoticed, she is an award-winning instructor at UW-Madison and has received many awards including the Chemistry Department’s James W. Taylor Excellence in Teaching Award, the Chancellor’s Hilldale Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Alliant Energy Underkofler Excellence in Teaching Award.
Most recently, Reich was honored with an undergraduate scholarship in her name.
“Dr. Reich’s lectures transcend the size of the class, and I feel that she is speaking directly to me,” says James Luo, a junior studying biology.
While both Luo and Kraemer admitted that it can be frightening to have a professor call your name at random in front of hundreds of other students, they say it kept them engaged in the subject matter.
Reich knows the anticipation of getting called on can be intimidating, so she gives all students the option to remove their name from the stack of notecards. Perhaps a testament to her teaching style, this semester Reich had only three students ask to be removed from the deck.
Reich is leaving her teaching role, but she will remain active in the UW-Madison community. Her husband — Hans Reich — is a faculty member in Chemistry. She will also serve as an emeritus Faculty Fellow for Bradley Learning Community.
Story by Holly Hartung