2016 Distinguished Teaching Award Finalists Announced
Ten finalists have been chosen from a pool of more than 325 nominees for the 50th Annual Kent State University Alumni Association Distinguished Teaching Award. The finalists will be narrowed down to three, and those recipients will be awarded a $1,500 cash prize and a crystal apple trophy. The three award recipients also will be honored at the University Teaching Council’s Celebrating College Teaching conference luncheon and awards ceremony on Oct. 21.
The Distinguished Teaching Award is the most esteemed honor that Kent State grants to three full-time, tenure-track faculty members. The Kent State Alumni Association recognizes excellent Kent State faculty members with this award annually. In order to be nominated, faculty members must have been employed at the university for at least seven years and be in a tenure-track position.
Christopher Blackwood, Department of Biological Sciences, Kent Campus
Christopher Blackwood is highly regarded for his remarkable enthusiasm and passion for his field. “His courses are very rigorous, but he requires students to think in a multitude of ways,” a student nominator writes. “He encourages students to express themselves in a group context as well as individually.”
Students also note Blackwood’s enthusiasm outside of the classroom. A student nominator recalls many occasions where Blackwood incorporated photos from trips into his lectures, giving students a deeper connection with the material.
Mary Ann Devine, School of Foundations, Leadership and Administration, Kent Campus
Students describe Mary Ann Devine as incredibly organized and extremely knowledgeable, and they recall her warm and friendly nature. She is noted for teaching several courses, conducting research, producing publications and still finding time to meet with students.
One student nominator describes Devine as an all-around amazing, strong woman.
“Dr. Devine is a great mentor, someone whom I look up to and aspire to be,” the student nominator writes. “She is a great educator and cares for her students like family.”
Stephen Gagola, Department of Mathematical Sciences, Kent Campus
Stephen Gagola takes pride in his work, one student nominator notes.
“He always walks into class with a smile on his face and his enthusiasm for the subject matter is infectious,” the student nominator writes.
Students note that Gagola is an extremely effective teacher, making complex or difficult concepts understandable and relatable.
“He will often give us the historical context and proof for a topic so that we can understand how the topic was derived,” a student nominator writes. “He also provides interesting facts to help us further remember the material.”
Donald Gerbig, Department of Biological Sciences, Kent State University at Tuscarawas
Donald Gerbig is described as both intimidating and inspiring, gaining the admiration and respect of his students through his teaching. Gerbig is known for holding his students to a high standard of learning.
“Dr. Gerbig is upfront and honest, explaining that he expects to be impressed by our grasp and knowledge of the material,” a student nominator writes.
Laurie Hines, School of Lifespan Development and Educational Sciences, Kent State University at Trumbull
Laurie Hines is most recognized for her enthusiasm in the classroom and passion for helping students reach their full potential. She excels at getting even the most uninterested students motivated to learn about history.
“The best thing about Dr. Hines is her willingness and eagerness to help her students far beyond what is in her job description,” a student nominator explains.
Jan Leach, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Kent Campus
Students value Jan Leach’s ability to use real examples of ethical dilemmas to help them connect key theories to challenging situations they may face in their professional careers. Leach challenges her students to think critically about a number of topics, while facilitating comfortable, open and nonjudgmental classroom settings.
“Professor Leach is one of the most enthusiastic professors I have ever had,” a student nominator says. “Her passion for her work and, more importantly, her students, is quite evident. Her knowledge of ethics and the mass communication field as a whole is vast. She is truly an expert at what she does.”
Natasha Levinson, School of Foundations, Leadership and Administration, Kent Campus
Natasha Levinson’s students commend how effectively she conveys complex topics, which allows students to gain a deeper understanding of philosophy. Levinson recognizes students’ potential and pushes them to “bring their work to the next level,” a student nominator explains.
“Dr. Levinson definitely stimulates my thinking,” another student nominator writes. “I remember my peers saying that you must come well prepared to her class, otherwise your head will hurt trying to grasp complex ideas. She definitely challenges students’ intellect.”
Pamela Mitchell, School of Health Sciences, Kent Campus
Pamela Mitchell’s love for speech pathology translates to her classroom lectures. Student nominators take note of Mitchell’s ability to motivate and inspire students by explaining to them how rewarding a career in speech pathology can be.
“Dr. Mitchell often explains the importance of the concepts we are learning regarding the personal and emotional benefits we will have on the client and his or her family,” a student nominator explains. “She often reminds students how rewarding the career is, which is very motivating.”
Colleen Novak Barnett, Department of Biological Sciences, Kent Campus
Colleen Novak Barnett goes above and beyond to make sure her students receive the most beneficial, as well as gratifying, laboratory experiences. She recognizes students’ potential at the beginning of their undergraduate careers and provides guidance throughout their academic journeys at Kent State.
“I am currently a first-year graduate student through the School of Biomedical Sciences at Kent State University,” a student nominator says. “I was able to find my passion in research because Dr. Novak Barnett welcomed me into her laboratory and gave me the opportunity to prove myself.”
Timothy Scarnecchia, Department of History, Kent Campus
Timothy Scarnecchia is best known for his engaging teaching style.
“One of Dr. Scarnecchia’s best traits is his effective communication in the classroom,” a student nominator notes. “When he teaches, he communicates at a personal level and seeks to engage every student.”
Scarnecchia also is recognized for having respect for all of his students’ opinions, which creates strong classroom discussion and an enjoyable learning environment for all students.