Kent State University Alumni Association Announces 51st Annual Distinguished Teaching Award Nominees
Ten finalists have been chosen from a pool of more than 200 nominees for the 51st annual Kent State University Alumni Association Distinguished Teaching Award.
The Kent State University Alumni Association recognizes Kent State faculty members with this award annually. The Distinguished Teaching Award is the most esteemed honor that Kent State grants to three full-time, tenure-track faculty members. In order to be nominated, faculty members must have been employed at the university for at least seven years and be in a tenured or tenure-track position.
The 10 finalists chosen 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 Friday, Oct. 20.
Candace Perkins Bowen, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Kent Campus
Candace Perkins Bowen, director, Center for Scholastic Journalism and associate professor, describes her philosophy of teaching as inspiring students to be curious and continue to explore the world around them, to be passionate about what they do and strive to make it their very best, and to make a difference for others.
Ms. Perkins Bowen enjoys when her students in the Writing Across Platforms class tell her that they appreciate her feedback, especially since their papers are usually filled with her green pen marks. She says this indicates what is right and what is wrong, and she points out that she has students from 20 years ago saying they still remember and value the power of her green pen.
“Candace is a great writing coach; I was especially impressed that in the course of one class period, she worked with each individual student, at least twice, as they were working on writing assignments in the lab," a peer reviewer says. "Substantive feedback, lots of time for questions, good handouts and class instructions.”
Maryann De Julio, Department of Modern and Classical Languages, Kent Campus
Professor of French Maryann De Julio, Ph.D., approaches teaching her students with respect, values their opinions and encourages free expression in all of her classes.
“Since I teach my classes in French, I try to create a relaxed and learning-centered classroom by getting to know my students outside of the classroom, advising them on particular strategies to improve their current and individual level of competence in language,” Dr. De Julio says.
Dr. De Julio’s students say they appreciate her teachings. Multiple students have reached out to her when they have made trips to Paris and have seen the sights and heard the poems discussed in class.
Jane Dressler, School of Music, Kent Campus
Jane Dressler, Ph.D., interim director of the School of Music and professor, says, “At Kent State University, our philosophy is ‘students first.’ My version of that is ‘voices first.’ I work with young men and women as a musician, a dramatic coach and a pedagogue to establish healthy tone, positive posture, uniform tone quality from the top to the bottom of the range and pleasing tonal color. I take each element seriously, and I accept that each element will vary on a weekly basis. As I observe, listen and play, I become familiar with their physical preparation and their thinking.”
Dr. Dressler says some of her greatest joys have come from watching a younger singer present a program with complete confidence and clarity.
Angela Guercio, Department of Computer Science, Stark Campus
Angela Guercio, Ph.D., associate professor, strives to create an effective learning environment, which she accomplishes through good communication, clear explanations and motivation for students to achieve the maximum amount of learning that they are capable of.
“Showing my passion for the subject I am teaching is essential to motivating them in the learning process since it encourages the students through the hurdles of the learning process,” Dr. Guercio says. “As a teacher of computer science, I know that some computer science classes can be challenging. For example, writing programs can be very stressful, daunting and frustrating.”
Peer reviewers describe Dr. Guercio as thoroughly prepared, student-oriented, supportive and a tremendous asset to Kent State.
Bradley Keefer, Department of History, Ashtabula campus
Bradley Keefer, Ph.D., associate professor, says that his approach to teaching has not changed substantially throughout his teaching career. He tries to build a clear, organized and understandable thread that introduces key concepts in theory, methods and historiography, along with the facts.
“When I read student comments, I like to see ‘passionate,’ ‘fair’ and ‘caring,’ and that the class was fun and entertaining,” Dr. Keefer says. “If they learned something about history, that is great. If they gained confidence, learned to be better critical readers and writers, and came away with an appreciation for how we understand a complex and diverse past – not to mention the present – then I am satisfied.”
Scott Keiller, Department of Psychology, Tuscarawas campus
Scott Keiller, Ph.D., associate professor, says his goals in teaching are very simple and include how he wants his students to lead healthier lives and teach them the skills to do so.
“Discussion helped create connections, which improved long-term memory of material, as well as recall and understanding,” says one of Dr. Keiller’s students. “Great! Actually taught material in an interesting way and promoted discussion. Didn’t ‘profess’ as most professors tend to do.”
Dr. Keiller shares that his hope is that students discover the value of being both skeptical and open-minded, which includes being skeptical of authority, power and dogma, but open to possibilities.
Gary Koski, Department of Biological Sciences, Kent Campus
Gary Koski, Ph.D., associate professor, shares that he tries to provide real value to his students knowing that they pay a lot of money in order to attend college. He states that capturing student interest is the single most important aspect of teaching.
“I try to impress upon my students that ‘science’ is not simply a set of ossified facts, but a dynamic, critical process,” Dr. Koski says. “Furthermore, our understanding is not only constantly evolving, but great advances are made by real people, often in the face of incredible resistance.”
Natasha Levinson, School of Foundations, Leadership and Administration, Kent Campus
Natasha Levinson, Ph.D., associate professor, shares that no matter the seating arrangement, her classes begin with a framing question or set of questions designed to invite students into a conversation about the assigned course materials that, if all goes well, is an adventure for everyone.
“I know that my teaching is working when students are paying as much attention to one another as they do to me,” Dr. Levinson says. “Every now and then, the class hones in on an issue that draws everyone into the conversation, and it becomes apparent that something profound is happening. These moments are rare and exhilarating.”
Robin Vande Zande, School of Art, Kent Campus
Robin Vande Zande, Ph.D., associate professor, describes how her teaching and research are intertwined. Her research area is design thinking, a creative and collaborative approach to problem-solving, which offers a unique model for educators.
Dr. Vande Zande says that preparing students to use design and teach design thinking is giving them life skills.
“I just wanted to take the time to say thank you for being such an inspiration to me both personally and professionally,” says one of Dr. Vande Zande’s students. “I truly admire your enthusiasm, professionalism, encouragement and knowledge as a professor and as my advisor.”
Zhiqiang Wang, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Geauga Campus
Zhiqiang Wang, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry, is able to create, with her teaching, an academic environment that promotes the intellectual and professional development of students by preparing students for employment or graduate school and inspiring them to learn and discover.
“I have never encountered an instructor more dedicated and concerned about becoming an excellent instructor,” says a colleague of Dr. Wang.
Dr. Wang says that over the years, she has strived to make a difference and educate students to become critical thinkers, readers and writers. She describes herself as a reflective teacher who knows that there’s always room for improvement.