THE DOMINO EFFECT OF LOVING THE CLASSROOM
For Jeffery Osikiewicz, Ph.D., the teaching experience feels like a domino effect, one element leads to another to yet another.
“If you come in as an instructor and you really like what you're doing, you enjoy the classroom. You enjoy the class and the students pick up on it,” Osikiewicz said. “They give it back to you. It goes for every classroom, and it makes for a beautiful experience.”
Osikiewicz, associate professor of mathematical science at Kent State University at Tuscarawas, believes this teaching/domino effect creates a bond between him and his students.
Osikiewicz is one of three 2023 Distinguished Teaching Award winners. This honor is sponsored by the Kent State Alumni Association and awarded to tenured or tenure-track professors each year who impact students both in and out of the classroom. This is the highest teaching award a tenured or tenure-track professor can receive from the university with nominations coming from students and colleagues.
Osikiewicz’s teaching philosophy is heavily focused on students and has three guiding principles.
"Respect: Always respect your students and they will return that respect,” Osikiewicz wrote in response to his nomination this year. “Trust: Trust your students and always give them the benefit of the doubt. They are young and inexperienced, but honest and of good heart. Enjoy: Teaching is such a wonderful and rewarding profession. Enjoy every class and enjoy every student.”
His student evaluations reflect this. One student noted that Osikiewicz “creates a comfortable space for the students by giving us the respect that we deserve to portray that respect back. He holds us responsible for our actions.”
Osikiewicz's love for teaching began with an assistantship during his master's program at Youngstown State University. And In 1998, he began teaching at Kent State Tuscarawas and has not looked back.
In his 37 years of teaching, Osikiewicz has grown along with his students. His domino effect benefits him as well as his students.
“When you're at a great campus, you enjoy coming to work,” Osikiewicz said. “You just naturally want to do well when you’re surrounded by a good environment.”
In a support letter for the award, a colleague wrote that math can be an intimidating subject for students, but Osikiewicz finds a way to help students gain faith in themselves.
“As a math professor, he must help students overcome the general dislike of math they bring into the classroom,” this colleague wrote. “That he can help them not only master the subject but also leave with a new sense of ‘math confidence’ and excitement for the subject is a true testament to his teaching skill!”
Passion and compassion make up a large part of Osikiewicz’s methodology in the classroom. He said being in the classroom is the best part of his day, and he makes sure students feel comfortable coming to him for help.
Osikiewicz sets up his classes “lab style,” where students follow along in a prepared lecture, then during the second half of class he prioritizes meeting with students to go over any concerns or questions they may have to strengthen their relationship and the learning environment.
“You have to enjoy every class. You have to enjoy every student,” Osikiewicz said. “Students feed off that because it goes both ways.”
In response to how Osikiewicz has demonstrated commitment to helping students learn, a student from one of Osikiewicz’s Introductory Statistics class wrote in the class evaluation that how the classroom check-ins and compassion were the best parts of being his student.
“As he has instilled throughout the semester, Dr. O. has demonstrated compassion and the willingness to succeed on his student’s behalf through weekly discussions and progress checks,” a student wrote.
Osikiewicz was honored at the University Teaching Council meeting on Friday, Oct. 20, along with the other Distinguished Teaching Award and Outstanding Teaching Award nominees and winners and others.