Joan Steidl Receives Kent State's Outstanding Teaching Award
The interruption to Kent State University at Ashtabula associate lecturer Joan Steidl’s Intro to Human Services class recently was for a good reason, as Dean and Chief Administrative Officer Susan J. Stocker, Ph.D. and many of her colleagues were there to make the surprise announcement of Steidl being a recipient of the Kent State Outstanding Teaching Award (OTA) for 2020. Steidl is one of three recipients across the Kent State system for the 2020 year. The award presentations were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Presented by the University Teaching Council since 1996, the OTA is the highest honor a non-tenure-track or part-time faculty member can receive at Kent State. The award also comes with a $1,500 prize. The award was presented at an awards ceremony during the University Teaching Council Annual Conference Oct. 22.
“It’s a bit cliched, but honestly, it is truly just an honor to be nominated. I felt like that was more than enough,” Steidl said. “It’s humbling. I am just doing my job and trying to learn and grow, to share my enthusiasm for learning with others. That’s always been my goal, to get others enthusiastic about reading and learning. When a student comes back and tells me they’re reading and paying attention to world events, being self-reflective and making personal and professional changes – I know that’s when I’ve done my job.”
To be eligible, the faculty member must be on a non-tenure-track or part-time contract for a minimum of five years, including the current academic year, and previous recipients are not eligible to receive the award. Steidl was one of only a select few of the nominees to receive multiple nominations from students and colleagues.
“Joan is so deserving of this award,” Stocker said. “She is a special soul – she genuinely cares about others and making this world a better place. Joan is humble, she has a great sense of humor and a special energy. As a teacher she has more confidence in her students than they do themselves and so many share stories of how she helped them develop coping and life skills, helped them discover a newfound sense of confidence and really blossom. She has earned this award and her students will be the first to tell you that no one deserves this recognition more than Joan Steidl.”
Steidl teaches a majority of courses in, and coordinates for, the Associate of Applied Science Degree in Human Services Technology program.
Following a professional career first in public relations, program management and workforce development – including a five-year stint at Kent State Ashtabula from 1999-2004 – and then later in mental and behavioral health, Steidl returned to campus in 2011 to begin teaching full-time.
“It’s been a hard journey, but in a good way,” she said. “I was working as an academic advising counselor in higher education and I read Parker Palmer’s book ‘Courage to Teach’ and that was a turning point. It had a profound impact on me going into teaching and thinking about what do we need to do to bring the best out of students.”
Steidl is just the second Kent State Ashtabula faculty member to win an OTA, joining assistant professor Katherine (Kay) Springer Amey, Ph.D., who won in 2019.
A Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, Steidl holds a master’s degree in community counseling from John Carroll University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in mass media-communications from the University of Akron.
Outside of the classroom, Steidl is involved in numerous community and professional endeavors as a presenter, instructor and volunteer. In April 2020 she produced “Power of So Many Flowers” for NPR station WKSU and is a regular guest on local radio station Mix 97.1 FM’s morning show as its “positivity expert.”
“Truthfully, I’ve always felt a bit insecure in my teaching and often compare myself to others in the classroom,” she said. “But people like Dean Stocker, Kevin Deemer and the colleagues I teach with have shaped me and help me realize my talent for teaching and what I bring into the classroom. This recognition is both humbling and kind of affirming that I have been doing something right.”