Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Kent State Trumbull Receives Outstanding Teaching Award

Warmth, earnest enthusiasm and respect are just some of the words students use to describe Valerie Cubon-Bell, associate professor for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Kent State University at Trumbull. As a professor, Cubon-Bell is known for creating a welcoming and comfortable environment for all students to learn and thrive. These reasons are why she is a recipient of the 2016 Outstanding Teaching Award (OTA).Kent State University of Trumbull Dean and Chief Administrative Officer Lance Grahn says a few words about Valerie Cubon-Bell, who received the 2016 Outstanding Teaching Award.

“There is no better feeling than to have received such a prestigious award from student nominations,” Cubon-Bell says. “I am here at Kent State Trumbull for my students, I teach for my students, so to be recognized by them is a compliment of the highest order.”

The OTA is sponsored by the University Teaching Council at Kent State University and honors full-time, nontenure-track and part-time faculty members. The OTA nominees are considered by their students and peers to be the most dedicated, highly effective and motivated professors at Kent State. Cubon-Bell is one of three universitywide recipients for the 2016 award. The recipients were honored at the University Teaching Council Conference Luncheon on Oct. 21.

“My initial thought of ‘Wow!’ was then quickly accompanied by a huge smile,” Cubon-Bell says. “I immediately began to recall my students, both past and present, and how they have challenged me and inspired me to constantly work on my teaching methods and strategies so that I become a more effective teacher in my field.”

She is currently studying the effects of sports-related concussion and traumatic brain injury, while inside the classroom she presents the most complex concepts in easily accessible lectures to her students.

“I consider it my privilege to be an instructor, and I thank all my students for the hard work, dedication and sacrifices made to focus on my courses and ultimately work toward achieving degrees,” Cubon-Bell says. 

Cubon-Bell’s accomplishments from Princeton University and the NASA Glenn Research Center, along with her research publications, make her a valuable source of knowledge to Kent State Trumbull. But her students believe it is more than knowledge that makes her a standout professor.

[It’s] “the constant warmth she radiates toward her students and her very earnest enthusiasm for chemistry,” says Lana Sky Kuhlenschmidt, junior nutrition major at Kent State Trumbull. “She is consistently considerate of her students and treats them all with the utmost poise, respect and affability.”

Kuhlenschmidt began her academic year with Cubon-Bell during a difficult time in life, when she was transitioning from male to female. She says she is thrilled to know Cubon-Bell’s kindness is being celebrated with such a prestigious award.

“She made me feel welcome, when I felt I couldn’t speak or make eye contact with anyone other than my family,” Kuhlenschmidt says. “She regarded me just like any of her other students, at a time I sorely needed the normalcy of being treated like everyone else.”

Kuhlenschmidt went into chemistry understanding it is a class not easy for everyone to grasp, but Cubon-Bell’s teaching allowed students to understand the material and succeed. According to Kuhlenschmidt, Cubon-Bell meticulously prepared lesson plans with vividly detailed lecture presentations to help illustrate chemistry.

“She would always work through problems fully, never skipping a step,” Kuhlenschmidt says. “This reinforced the methods for arriving at answers with accuracy and precision.”

According to Cubon-Bell, many students enter the classroom afraid and intimidated by chemistry with a predefined view of the subject.

“My most noteworthy teaching accomplishments are when these same students successfully finish my course with a completely different outlook on chemistry,” Cubon-Bell says. “Students gain the desire and motivation to learn, finding chemistry enjoyable and valuable to their future.”

Cubon-Bell’s main goal is to provide students with a positive chemistry experience, regardless of the student’s academic background. While she realizes the challenges, Cubon-Bell strives to build students’ confidence and instill the mindset that they are capable of attaining a deeper understanding of why things happen in the world around them.

“I want students to realize that chemistry is all around them and that learning about it can indeed be fun,” she says. “At the end of the semester, many students report they can’t believe they actually liked chemistry and were able to unlock potential they never knew existed.”

Cubon-Bell consistently connects new concepts to old concepts to ensure students relate topics to one another to grasp a broader knowledge of the sciences. She strives to use nonchemistry analogies to aid in connecting abstract concepts. She believes when students see and experience concepts, they achieve better comprehension and enhanced retention.

Cubon-Bell says she considers being an instructor a privilege and is appreciative to the administration and faculty of Kent State Trumbull for the constant support in her teaching endeavors.

For more information on her teaching and research, visit her page on Kent State Trumbull’s website