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Six honored with Teaching Recognition Awards
Six honored with Teaching Recognition AwardsApril 19, 2007Sara Millersemortim@syr.edu
Six Syracuse University faculty members will be honored April 23 as the 2007 recipients of the Teaching Recognition Awards, sponsored by SU’s Meredith Professors. They will be feted by the University community at a 4 p.m. reception in the Goldstein Alumni and Faculty Center.
This year’s awardees are Lois Agnew, associate professor of writing and rhetoric in The Writing Program in The College of Arts and Sciences; Sanjay K. Chhablani, assistant professor in the College of Law; Ellen deLara, assistant professor of social work in the College of Human Services and Health Professions; Lisa Quinn Knych, assistant professor of law and public policy in the Whitman School of Management; M. Kristiina Montero, assistant professor of reading and language arts in the School of Education; and Jamie Winders, assistant professor of geography in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.
The Teaching Recognition Awards program was established in 2001 through an expansion of the Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professorship Program. The Meredith Professors themselves proposed that the Teaching Recognition Award program recognize excellence in teaching by non-tenured faculty and adjunct and part-time instructors. Recipients are selected for teaching innovation, effectiveness in communicating with students, and the lasting value of courses.
To be eligible, candidates must have completed two years of service to the University and not yet received tenure. Each recipient is given $3,000 to further his or her professional development.
Also at the April 23 reception, Christine Himes, professor of sociology, will receive the 2007 United Methodist University Scholar/Teacher of the Year award.
In her three years at SU, Agnew has gained a reputation as a creative and highly skilled teacher who engages her students in the required practices of each course while simultaneously offering them true intellectual challenges. She is also highly praised by students and colleagues alike for her deep knowledge, ability to lead stimulating class discussions, and creating a highly respectful, safe and engaging classroom environment.
Agnew, a scholar of classical rhetoric and 18th- and 19th-century British rhetorical theory, teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in writing and rhetoric. She serves as chair of The Writing Program’s Lower Division Committee, working to develop and refine goals and develop practices and materials meant to help other teachers. She has also offered several mini-seminars on teaching issues and curricular questions, and is highly sought after by students as a mentor on qualifying examination committees.
“Lois designs rigorous, carefully structured courses. Each element builds on the other,” says Carol Lipson, director and chair of The Writing Program. “The reading and writing assignments all are chosen to carefully work together, and the writing assignments always build on one another to help students develop higher-level skills and complete ever-more-challenging tasks.”
Lipson says that many graduate students have adapted their own undergraduate pedagogy to model that of Agnew, and Agnew has also inspired many undergraduate students to take further courses with her or to explore writing as a minor.
“Undergraduate and graduate students of Lois Agnew are overwhelmingly positive about her courses and about her as a teacher,” Lipson says. “She is found to be inspiring, intellectually stimulating, particularly helpful to students and, last but not least, she has a terrific sense of humor.”
Of her teaching, Agnew says: “My teaching is consistently informed by the view that student writing develops through their engagement with ideas and commitment to sharing their ideas with other people. My goal is therefore to develop courses that help students discover that writing not only involves hard work, but also enables them to refine their ideas, share their insights with other people, and develop the ability to engage in respectful exchanges that promote an understanding of diverse points of view. My hope is that this discovery will help them acquire a lifelong commitment to responding to issues that they encounter in their lives as individuals, professionals and citizens.”
Sanjay K. Chhablani
Chhablani teaches criminal law, constitutional criminal procedure, forensic evidence and capital punishment. While the distinct nature of each class requires different teaching styles, they reflect a common pedagogical goal: that his students not only master the subject matter, but more importantly that they develop skills that will help them succeed as lawyers and citizens.
“Success as a practicing attorney calls on us to be more than mere technicians in the law,” Chhablani says. “It is the judgment that we bring to bear, along with critical reasoning and problem-solving skills, which is of particular value in guiding clients through what are often difficult times in their professional or personal lives.”
Rather than lecturing, Chhablani engages students in directed discussions to encourage active learning because he believes that a successful classroom experience is predicated on meaningful student participation. He also prefers this approach because students can learn much from one another. He believes that each student brings a distinct and valuable perspective because of unique life experiences. By giving everyone a voice through classroom participation, his students are also empowered. The dynamic process can be challenging when dealing with controversial issues, but Chhablani finds that broad participation creates a more respectful and productive learning environment.
While case-based discussions are the backbone of his classes, Chhablani goes beyond the text, knowing that students benefit not only from learning legal rules in the abstract, but also by seeing how they operate in the real world. He assigns articles from law reviews and newspapers, shows documentaries that bring outside perspectives into the classroom, discusses his experiences in representing persons on death row, and provides students opportunities to interact directly with lawyers, judges and experts.
One key to being a good teacher, Chhablani believes, is having a commitment to learning and improving. When he joined the College of Law in 2003, he had to overcome the challenges and struggles many new teachers face. He sought advice from faculty members and his wife, an experienced teacher, on ways to improve. Since then, he has made remarkable progress but still sees room for growth.
“He looks for and sees what does not work in the teaching-learning process and has intelligence, will and flexibility to change substantially what he does with a class in order to make it work much better,” says law professor Peter Bell.
In teaching social work students, deLara combines classic classroom instruction about child, adolescent and family social work issues with the latest clinical experience she gains from her own practice in Ithaca, where she works with individuals, couples and families.
“I am always aware that what I bring to students through my teaching must serve them well as social work practitioners,” says deLara. “My goal in teaching is to spark students’ interest in new ideas and social activism. As a result of being in my classes, I hope students understand that they have a steadfast obligation for activism on behalf of their clients.”
Since joining the College of Human Services and Health Professions in 2003, deLara has focused on human behavior in the social environment, practice with children, adolescents and families, and family systems theory. In the classroom, deLara’s teaching is noted by students as being among the best in the college and consistently earns high reviews.
“Her pedagogical teaching approach includes treating students with respect and integrity, while allowing them to develop their creativity in response to issues at hand,” says Alejandro Garcia, professor and director of the social work program. “One of the learning tools is having students share — in a measured way — their personal experiences with their peers. This is not easy to do, but Dr. deLara creates a safe environment where students can share and maintain a level of respect and integrity.”
DeLara is most recognized for her expertise on issues of school bullying, violence and safety, which she has researched for more than a decade. She published her findings in “And Words Can Hurt Forever: How to Protect Adolescents from Bullying, Harassment, and Emotional Violence” (Free Press, 2002), which she co-wrote with James Garbarino. The book proposes several solutions to help eliminate bullying, including the need for adults to play a more active role in their children’s lives. She followed that with a second book, “School-Based Intervention Programs” (Houghton Mifflin, 2003), which explores ways to train new teachers about school safety.
Lisa Quinn Knych
Lisa Quinn Knych teaches law and public policy classes in the Whitman School. Though her classes are often held at 8 a.m., “She has no problem filling the seats and keeping them filled throughout the semester,” says Frances Zollers, professor of law and public policy in the Whitman School.
Knych has held a full-time position at the Whitman School since 2001, but taught many classes at the school before that. She teaches classes of 50 or more students, three each semester. She also teaches Internet classes for the school’s iMBA program.
Knych constantly seeks to improve her teaching methods, picking up tips from professional meetings and publications. For example, she used to require students in one of her courses to subscribe to The Wall Street Journal and led class discussions about the legal issues they found. When she realized that this method was not engaging all of the students, she incorporated a method that she had learned from a conference presentation. Now, at the beginning of each class, two or three students make a presentation on a legal issue in the news. Knych has found that this method engages the students much more.
Knych also participates in students’ lives outside the classroom. She is a faculty marshal at Commencement, judges the capstone competition, and attends as many lectures and events as she can. She also invites students from previous semesters to dinner at her home with her family. “I think it is very important for students to see faculty engaged in the learning process, engaged in the University and school community, and engaged in leading well-rounded, productive lives,” she says.
“I try to share my enthusiasm for the law and connect what I teach to my experiences as a lawyer,” Knych says. “My hope is that my students can use the skills I focus on in all their courses and in life after college. Most of all, in all my courses, I strive to communicate to my students how fortunate I feel to interact with them and what a privilege it is to be a part of their educational experiences.”
M. Kristiina Montero
As a teacher of language arts and reading education, Montero believes in the power of transformative education. Her courses and assignments reflect this and her colleagues and students find Montero’s enthusiasm and scholarly approach magnetic.
Following a year as a visiting assistant professor, Montero is now in her second year in the position of assistant professor in the School of Education. An inspiring teacher, Montero has already figured in several student-centered learning adventures.
One class partnered in dialogue with international students to critique the cultural representations in international children’s literature. Findings were published in the Journal of Children’s Literature. In another instance, Montero helped doctoral students from across the school in building a new student group, the Student Organization of Literacy Educators and Researchers. In another class, Montero challenged students to design literacy-building activities around “Sosu’s Call” (Kane/Miller Book Publishers, 2002), a children’s book by the Ghanaian-born author Meshack Asare, for the annual Children’s Book Fest organized by Syracuse’s chapter of Success By 6, sponsored by The United Way.
“Dr. Montero knows how to teach children to read, and she also deeply understands the sociocultural dimensions of their literacy development,” says her colleague Kathleen Hinchman, professor and chair of the Reading and Language Arts Center. For Montero, with her teaching philosophy centered on reflective thought directed toward action, inquiry and dialogue, a teacher must challenge the student, obliging a response and ultimately transforming both the teacher and those taught.
“Through inquiry,” Montero says, “students experience first hand how theory is connected to practice, practice connected to theory, and how they have a place in transforming the educational process for themselves and their future students.”
In her own history, Montero discovered how a teacher’s role can be achieved “by learning through others’ eyes” when she placed the home language of minority-language students at the center of her research agenda. For her, a consideration of society and culture is an important underpinning of learning. “My teaching is part of the community,” she says, “and the community is part of my teaching.”
Winders, assistant professor of urban geography in The Maxwell School, is already being recognized for her passion and skill for teaching, despite being at it for less than three years.
“In only two and a half years teaching in the geography department, Jamie Winders has already left an indelible mark that is largely attributable to her remarkable, talented and outstanding role as a teacher,” says Susan Millar, associate professor of geography. “Winders has been central to the rise in the number of geography majors, in part due to her enthusiasm and her ability to stimulate students to engage with the subject matter and to pursue further geography classes.”
Using a variety of methods — including oral histories, archival work, discourse analysis, group and individual interviews and life and work histories — Winders researches and teaches geography as it relates to conceptualizations of race, the production of racial categories and the material consequences of these formations. Most recently, she examined Latino migration to the U.S. South and the reworkings of race, ethnicity and belonging it has brought about in southern cities.
Winders teaches a wide range of undergraduate and graduate geography courses, from Introduction to Geography to a Seminar in Urban Geography. Having arrived at SU with limited college teaching experience, she has immersed herself in the study of the latest pedagogical approaches and literature in order to stay effectual in both teaching and research. Based on her learning, she recently co-authored with a geography graduate assistant a manuscript on pedagogy and submitted it to the Journal of Geography in Higher Education.
“Conceptually, I organize my courses around the themes of `rigor’ and `relevance,'” says Winders. “I want students — from freshmen to doctoral candidates — to develop critical-thinking skills and improve their writing. While encouraging students to ground their arguments in academic literatures and solid research, I also stress the relevance of this analytic approach to the world around them.”
Himes, professor of sociology in the Maxwell School, focuses her teaching and research interests on the demography of aging, obesity and health and family care giving. As this year’s recipient of the University Scholar/Teacher of the Year award, Himes adds to other teaching accolades received during her tenure, including the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Award for outstanding member of the junior faculty in the Maxwell School in 1999.
“Christine is a very committed teacher at both the undergraduate and graduate level and one of her greatest pedagogical strengths is her ability to introduce students to the basics,” says Mitchel B. Wallerstein, dean of the Maxwell School. “Inside the classroom, she is known as a particularly well-prepared professor who uses a variety of techniques to be sure the students understand the material and to keep the class interesting.”
Himes offers her students traditional lecture and discussion in the classroom and also uses guest speakers, film and Internet resources to illuminate concepts. At the graduate level, her class projects often require students to do original research relevant to her teachings in such areas as population projections and studies in patterns of health and mortality. At the undergraduate level, Himes dedicates her teaching to bringing along new scholars in this area of sociology, stoking students’ interest in the introductory courses she teaches.
Since 2003, Himes has chaired the Department of Sociology at the Maxwell School, and from 1998-2000 served as director of the SU Gerontology Center. She currently serves on eight Ph.D. committees at SU for students in sociology, social sciences and public administration.