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With around 500 student votes collected, Dr. Pinderjeet Gill of the Asian Languages and Cultures department is this year’s Golden Apple Award winner. This honor is the only entirely student-voted award that commends exceptional teaching at the University of Michigan.
Gill is a lecturer who teaches the Hindi and Punjabi languages and has been at the University since 2005. She earned her Ph.D. from Guru Nanak Dev University in 1997.
In an interview with the Michigan Daily, Gill said she was appreciative of the recognition because of how proud it has made not only her but also her family and her hometown, Dhariwal, in India.
“I really appreciate it because teaching was a very big thing for me because I am from a very small town in India,” Gill said. “I’m the first one who went to college in my family and my extended family, so teaching at the University of Michigan is a big thing for me. It is my dream come true. It is not only my dream, it is my mom’s dream too.”
LSA junior Anmol Singh, who has had Gill as professor in Punjabi for two years, shared what makes her stand out from other professors.
“She is one of the few professors that I have had that has shown genuine compassion … actually caring about our health (and) giving us days off when we need to,” Singh said. “She just makes us feel like we’re her own kids. She just really, really cares about us and it’s very easy to tell that. She’s just one of the best professors I’ve ever had and I really wish I could take more classes with her.”
When asked what makes her such a likeable professor, Gill said it is her work ethic and reliability with her students.
“I have always put in an honest effort for my classes,” Gill said. “Connectivity is the most important thing, and (with) that relationship with my students I think they feel very comfortable and very secure. I’m always there for them whenever they need me.”
Instead of the usual in-person surprise, the award was presented to Gill via Zoom with her colleagues and students all in attendance remotely. Education senior Emily McCann, president of the Golden Apple Committee, said announcing the award was very different compared to a normal year.
“In usual times it’s more fun and more engaging,” McCann said (The student group) goes to the classroom, disrupts the lecture, and it’s really surprising. It creates a challenge of not being able to be in person. Only one person speaks at a time and it’s a little rigid.”
Despite this, Gill said she was very grateful to receive the distinction. She also expressed how surprised she was at the announcement, as she was told she was just going to take a survey.
“It was a big surprise for me. I was shocked and surprised,” Gill said. “My director told me he wanted to run some kind of survey for the class, he stopped teaching and started recording. After a couple minutes a party of people came to join.”
Dr. Syed Ali, director of the U-M South Asian Language Program and a colleague of Gill, helped set up the surprise Zoom call. He said Gill is highly deserving of this award as an educator, but also as an amazing person.
“She is a wonderful colleague to work with. She is a very caring person also,” Ali said. “I feel fortunate to have a colleague like her who always stands with me and supports (me). She gives equally for all, so you feel like you are special, she is a gem in our department.”
Gill will be giving a follow-up lecture about receiving the Golden Apple Award this coming fall semester.
Daily Staff Reporter Brendan Ulanch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.