Connections and Enthusiasm Combine for Distinguished Teaching Award
A war reenactor, a history enthusiast and a 35 years veteran educator. However, the most important thing for Bradley Keefer, Ph.D., associate professor of history at Kent State University at Ashtabula, is the connections he makes with his students, leading him to earn the 2022 Distinguished Teaching Award (DTA).
The DTA is sponsored by the Kent State University Alumni Association and is the highest teaching award a tenured or tenure-track professor can receive.
“It validates what I've always felt was important, and that's teaching undergraduates, getting through to people and having them get it,” Keefer said. “I appreciate the recognition from the committee and from the Alumni Association, but this is really about the students finding value in what I'm doing. Nominating me several years in a row, it really sort of just confirms that I'm getting this right.”
Multiple recommendation letters from students and faculty described Keefer’s dedication and enthusiasm for history.
“You can hear how passionate and animated he is,” one faculty nominator wrote. “Dr. Keefer not only teaches history, he lives history. He makes history come alive for his students.”
Students also described the kindness and mentorship that Keefer provided.
“We talked for a while about how I was struggling with choosing my major,” the student wrote. “He reassured me that I can always change paths. It was just a genuinely nice and comforting conversation in a difficult time, and I really appreciated that he cared enough to take time to talk to me.”
Keefer tries to pass the relevance of history on to his students, while also relating to them outside the classroom.
“Understanding current events depends on knowing something about history and appreciating anything about history requires you to know something about current events,” Keefer said. “I also don't think people can learn effectively without some personal connection. There has to be people for them to relate to.”
Grades are important to Keefer, but he has other ways to measure both his and his students’ success.
“Everywhere I go I see my students, and when they're doing well and they're happy, I'm pretty satisfied with that,” Keefer said. “It’s all about the people to me. Being able to reach people, being a mentor and someone they trust to not only learn things from but be advised by.”
To read more about the 2022 Distinguished Teaching Award, visit www.kent.edu/alumni/nominate-professor.
To learn more about Kent State Ashtabula, visit www.kent.edu/ashtabula.