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Teaching Awards:

List of 2006 Awardees

Emily Bouck 

Dr. Emily Bouck graduated from the doctoral program in the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology, and Special Education. As a doctoral student, she has taught both undergraduate and masters classes, on campus, online, and overseas. She has also collaborated with other doctoral students and faculty to create both communities and centralized resources to support teaching within the COE programs.  

Emily’s commitment to her students and teaching are palpable. She speaks enthusiastically and passionately about wanting to be helpful and wanting to design good classes that push students to think in new ways. Her students find her warm and giving, energetic, enthusiastic, and engaged in both their professional and personal learning. As one co-instructor wrote: “Emily’s diligent work ethic, her substantial knowledge of learning theory, her thoughtful approach to teaching, and her affable personality made her an enormous success in the classroom.” As one of her students noted: “From the first time I walked into Emily’s class I was inspired by her love and enthusiasm for students with special needs . . . she could not disguise the joy she attained from the students with which she worked. Sometimes the anecdotes she told would terrify me; stories of abused and/or violent children . . . but I was inspired to learn more so that I could help students like the ones she cherished so much.”

Especially noteworthy is Emily’s commitment to her peers and to creating and sustaining professional communities in which she and her colleagues can continue learning. As a doctoral student, she created the Special Education Research Group (SERG), a community in which doctoral students support one another, learning about and from one another’s research and teaching, and mentoring new special education doctoral students as they enter the program.  

In sum, Emily Bouck has already demonstrated a deep commitment to taking responsibility for her learning and that of others, for designing thoughtful and information-rich courses, and for creating communities that support learning in formal and informal ways. We look forward to learning from her new experiences as a teacher and scholar at Purdue University where she has accepted an assistant professor position for fall 2006.

Adam Bruenger 

Adam Bruenger is a student in the doctoral program in the Department of Kinesiology. During his tenure in that department, he has taught a broad array of undergraduate courses. Throughout his work as a teacher, he has demonstrated a commitment to continually trying new strategies to capture students’ attention and presenting material in ways that capture their minds as well.  

Especially noteworthy has been Adam’s work in a course entitled, Physical Growth and Motor Behavior. He has continually worked to improve this class, adopting a broad array of teaching tools including computer video files of children performing various stages of development of fundamental movement skills. He also uses, to the delight of his daughter, video footage of her to show developmental changes during the first year of life. His daughter is also a classroom guest, demonstrating many fundamental movement skills. Through these various representations of children’s development, Adam works to bring the subject matter alive to and memorable for his students. Both faculty observers and his students comment on how personable and responsive Adam is, how he consistently invites student participation in class, how easy he is with going back over information when it is not clear, how prepared he is for his classes. As one student explains: “Adam has the ability of explaining difficult sections with such simplicity. He avoids spoon-feeding us the information, but rather challenges us to think, which, in my opinion, is the most beneficial tactic of all.”  

In sum, the committee was impressed with Adam’s capacity to think on his feet, his openness to discussing his teaching, and to his commitment to a broad array of teaching strategies. Of all of the candidates we interviewed, there was no one whose materials reflected a broader pedagogical palette: debates, PowerPoint presentations, videos, small group and cooperative work, demonstrations, visits from his daughter, new technologies. Adam Bruenger is already launched on an impressive trajectory as a caring, responsive, committed teacher, and we look forward to his continued accomplishments as scholar and teacher.  

Jacob Bruce Mathiason 

Jacob Bruce Mathiason is a doctoral student in the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology, and Special Education. As a doctoral student, he has both taught and played a major role in the on-going development of CEP 240, Diverse Learners in Multi-Cultural Perspective. Most recently, he has taken on the role of assistant coordinator for the course, which includes mentoring new teaching assistants.  

Teaching about diversity is hard work, for many reasons, not the least of which is that the passions around diversity, difference, and multiculturalism are intense, easily flared, easily misunderstood. As a teacher, Jake has been committed to creating classroom environments in which those passions can be explored, not marginalized. This requires knowing one’s students, encouraging them to express their opinions, opening the floor to alternative points of view. Students consider him “down to earth” and “fair,” they comment frequently on his enthusiasm, openness, and willingness to learn from his students. Students also note that the class helped them to “not view things from a narrow perspective” and “to be open to new ideas.”  

In an effort to create a positive environment in which students can learn, Jake uses a wide array of teaching strategies: videos, simulations, role plays, discussions, and lectures to name a few. As one faculty member wrote: “His sections are lively and interactive. Early on, Jake knows all of the students by name, and has tremendous recall . . . As a ‘devil’s advocate,’ Jake often poses questions that the students are afraid to ask, in ways that the students can relate to. Throughout his class sessions, Jake is constantly on the move—literally and figuratively—encouraging, offering and soliciting concrete examples for cultural and sociological concepts of diversity.”  

In sum, the committee was impressed with Jake’s on-going commitment to designing courses that can be both personally relevant and intellectually challenging to students, as well as his openness to new ideas and to inviting students to critique his teaching so that he might learn from them. We also applaud his leadership in organizing the efforts of all CEP240 teachers. We look forward to the contributions Jake will undoubtedly make to our collective understanding of how to teach future educators about how they might understand, respect, nurture, and promote diversity in their own personal and professional lives.

Punya Mishra 

Dr. Punya Mishra is an associate professor in the area of educational technology and a faculty member in the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology, and Special Education. In the last 7 years, Punya has taught 27 courses, at the masters and doctoral levels, both face to face and online. His research and his teaching has focused on learning how newer technologies can influence learning. In particular, Dr. Mishra focuses on the issue of design, and in his teaching and scholarship he draws on a wide array of literature and ideas including those from cognitive and educational psychology, art, engineering, communication, teacher education, literature and aesthetics, graphic design and film criticism, poetry and critical theory, sociology.

Punya is known for being an instructor who reads and thinks widely, and who asks his students to do the same. His students participate in a wide array of activities that are carefully designed to stretch their thinking, their imaginative capacities, and their understanding of technology as a tool to represent and promote thinking about important ideas. Punya does this pedagogical pushing with expertise and grace. As one doctoral student wrote: “ Dr. Mishra seems to know exactly how far he can challenge his students with combinations of creative and technically difficult work.” Finally, Dr. Mishra is known for his openness and reflectiveness, indeed, he is renowned for the ways in which he invites and – if need be – orchestrates criticism. He reviews his own practice publicly with students, and encourages them to explain what aspects of each class they do not understand or agree with. In so doing, he is helping the next generation of teachers learn to teach, by – as one student remarked -- “giving his students the foundations upon which to build their own teaching practice.”  

In sum, the committee was impressed with Punya’s capacities to theorize about his teaching--his courage in trying out new technologies alongside his students, his appetite for knowledge – and ability to connect a broad array of ideas to one another and to teaching--and his commitment to beginning a line of scholarship about his own teaching, intertwined as it is with his substantive interests in design and technology. We look forward to learning much more from Punya in the years to come.

Marilyn Amey 

Dr. Marilyn Amey is currently professor, soon to be chair, in the Department of Educational Administration where she is central to the Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education (HALE) program. Nominated by her students, Marilyn is considered, to use their words, the “embodiment” of the “caring, collegial and supportive attitude” of HALE. She is known for being an attentive and challenging teacher who creates communities of students who learn with and from one another.  

Students are especially impressed with Marilyn’s facilitation skills in discussions, where she manages to help students draw both on their own extensive experiences while also considering new perspectives. Marilyn believes that listening is an important – if not the most important – aspect of teaching, and her works hard to listen well. Her probes are well known among students -- “Here is a different way of looking at it, “What happens if we turn the kaleidoscope this way?” And “What happens when we look at it from this perspective?” – for she uses them often to encourage different points of view or to at least acknowledge that there are different perspectives to be considered. Students comment regularly on her skill at turning the class over to students, all the while making sure that readings are attended to, new ideas are considered, and concepts and theories are explored thoroughly. They are impressed with her considerable knowledge, seemingly invisible touch, and instructional grace. 
Marilyn’s commitment to learning from her teaching is remarkable. She regularly uses her annual evaluations to assess what went well and did not, analyzing both the students and the readings, and making plans for future revisions of her courses. At the end of each course, she asks students to provide extensive feedback – which is another venue through which she listens – and she uses this feedback to design and redesign formal and informal learning experiences for students.

In sum, the committee was impressed with Marilyn Amey’s capacity to facilitate learning. As one student noted, “I appreciated the atmosphere Marilyn established in the class. I felt it was a safe place, and I felt free to question and contribute. Yet at the same time that it was safe, she also challenged and prodded us, not an easy combination to achieve.” It does not escape her students that, as Marilyn teaches them about organizations, she also models a form of empowering and powerful leadership that keeps the group on course and allows all members to feel heard and respected.

Jay Featherstone

Professor Jay Featherstone is a long time leader and scholar in progressive education, and he has used his work as leader and teacher in the Department of Teacher Education to explore – in his practice – what it takes to inspire and support prospective teachers to teach all children well.

Of particular importance to the Department has been Jay’s leadership of one “Team 1,” one of the teacher education teams created 15 years ago when MSU redesigned its teacher education program in light of the criticisms from inside and outside of the education establishment. Not only did Jay co-lead “Team 1”  with Sharon Feiman Nemser; he also created and collaborated on the continual revision of TE 301, Learning and Learners in Context, a course required of all prospective teachers and one in which undergraduates are encouraged to learn about students in new ways. Integral to this course is an assignment that involves “child study,” a form of pedagogical investigation that has been developed and refined over the years by progressive educators like Pat Carini and the faculty at the Prospect School.  

Building both on that work and expanding upon it, Jay asks each student to study a child for an entire semester. The prospective teachers meet and conference with the child, observe the child in school and out, and participate in “rounds”, discussions with their peers about the children they are learning about. Jay treats his undergraduate students with the same care that he wishes they learn to treat young children. And so he listens and learns, cajoles and celebrates, inspires and motivates them to learn more about children and their potential. While many of us focus on how hard genuine learning can be, Jay reminds his students – and the rest of us – how exciting it is. His students speak of his “energy,” “exuberance,” “enthusiasm,” and “passion.”  

Another noteworthy aspect of Jay’s practice is the community of doctoral students and faculty that he has created around TE 301. In the exemplary tradition of previous generations of the MSU TE program, instructors regularly meet to discuss their syllabi and assignments and to learn the craft of using child study and scaffolding undergraduates’ learning. Through these conversations and this community, Jay has passed on to new generations of teacher educators the passions, commitments, beliefs, and values of a long line of progressive educators. Most recently, he has also sponsored a doctoral seminar in which students can learn about the history of progressivism, so that their passions are deeply rooted in knowledge of the historical, political, intellectual, social, and cultural forces that shaped that movement.

In sum, the committee was impressed with content and character of child study as Jay has crafted and recrafted it here at MSU. It is an assignment that carefully structures prospective teachers’ learning about children. Lee Shulman would call this a “signature pedagogy” of teacher education, and we hope that – as part of the next stage of Jay’s career – he and his colleagues find the time to document and disseminate the origins, development, core concepts, and theoretical and practical underpinnings of this important contribution to the practice of teaching and teacher education.

Crystal Branta

Crystal Branta is a professor in the Department of Kinesiology where she has devoted herself both to the on-going improvement of her own teaching and the support of doctoral students as they learn to teach. Crystal might be one of the only faculty we know of who actually reads research on teaching and applies it to her own practice. She is an avid reader of new scholarship, and is constantly in search of ways to reinvent her teaching practice as both her students and the content of her classes change. 

Central to Crystal’s work with undergraduates has been a contract grading practice that she has crafted and re-crafted for many years. By requiring her students to make proactive decisions about how much time, effort, and enthusiasm they will put into their own learning, Crystal makes public for students their own responsibilities as learners. Over the years, Dr. Branta has worked to help students learn to be more accountable for their work, and she uses writing assignments to scaffold for them the development of their own thinking and understanding. True to her commitments to using research to guide her work as a teacher, Crystal has read and used research on writing instruction to inform the development of these assignments.

Particularly noteworthy has been Crystal’s work on a two-course sequence for doctoral students who are interested in learning to teach well. The first course examines the research on developing critical thinking skills in students and on using cooperative learning strategies. The second is a mentored experience in teaching a professional undergraduate kinesiology section. Based on feedback from doctoral students that there were systemic inequities in who had the opportunity to teach undergraduates while in the doctoral program and in the levels of support they received, Crystal designed these classes so that any doctoral student who wanted to teach, and wanted support while learning to do so, would have access to those learning opportunities. Students read research on teaching and learning, they consider the implications for their syllabi and assignments, and during the second semester, they meet regularly to debrief their experiences. Graduates report that they “hit the road running” as new assistant professors, having experienced an intense and well-designed socialization into university teaching that sent them to those new jobs clutching syllabi, lessons, activities, and assignments, many of which they have documented in their own teaching portfolios. Even though the course is voluntary, the student rumor mill has it that everyone needs these classes. In an ironic twist, the course also helps some doctoral students – who came to MSU dead certain that they wanted to be researchers first and foremost – realize that what they really love to do is teach.  

In sum, Dr. Branta has consistently shown a commitment to her own teaching, modeling for all of us what it means to use scholarship on teaching for teaching. In addition, her work in thoughtfully crafting a curriculum and pedagogy for the support of doctoral students as they learn to teach, as well as use research to inform their own teaching, is an extraordinary service to the COE. Instead of a generic credentialing program, students learn to teach kinesiology: they read research and consider its implications for their own courses, they learn to craft activities that help undergraduates master important technical knowledge and skill, and they learn to constantly improve their practice. They learn how energizing, intellectually engaging, and rewarding teaching – as well as research – is. That is quite a legacy.

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