UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State has honored 10 students with the 2014 Harold F. Martin Graduate Assistant Outstanding Teaching Awards.
The award recipients are Janelle Applequist, mass communications; Ehssan Khanmohammadi, mathematics; Anne Kretsinger-Harries, communication arts and sciences; Kristopher Lotier, English; Daisy Phillips, statistics; Ryan Pollock, philosophy; David Puglia, American studies; Drew Shade, mass communications; Andrew Stafford, French and francophone studies, and Luorong Wu, hospitality management.
The Office of the Vice President and Dean of the Graduate School and the Office of the Vice President and Dean for Undergraduate Education co-sponsor the awards to recognize excellence in teaching by graduate students. Recipients must have served as a graduate assistant for at least two semesters within the last two years. The award is named for Harold F. Martin, who earned his doctoral degree in education in 1954 and retired as a director in the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
Most graduate students in the College of Communications do not have primary responsibility for an undergraduate course until the third year of their program, but Applequist began such teaching in her second year. “We clearly saw that she had the maturity, organization and time management skills to handle such responsibilities,” a nominator said. Another said, “She simply ‘gets’ what it takes to be a great teacher. Applequist believes in reciprocity between teachers and students, noting, “I see my role as an educator as developing a two-way relationship with my classroom, where we can learn from one another while privileging the individual experiences we each have.”
In teaching mathematics to non-math majors, Khanmohammadi said he realizes many students will forget the math they learn in class, so he goes outside the standard curriculum to talk about why math matters. “I hope as a teacher and a representative of the mathematical community, I can impart a good deal of enthusiasm for learning to the students who are willing to embrace the difficulties and start searching for the unknown.” A nominator said of Khanmohammadi’s lectures, “His explanations have developed from simply being excellent in 2011 to being an amazing lecturer now.”
Kretsinger-Harries has taught six courses and 15 sections for the Communication Arts and Sciences Department. After teaching the 400-level online History of Public Address course, she was invited to teach it as a special Learning Edge Academic Program section and then a new freshman honors course, Honors Rhetoric and Civic Life. A nominator called her “one of the best instructors we have among our regular faculty, the graduate students and our lecturers.” Kretsinger-Harries said she strives to create a rigorous and supportive learning environment: “My class sessions are interactive, my assignments are challenging and my standards are high.”
Lotier’s varied teaching experience includes rhetoric and composition, technical writing and business writing. In all his classes, he said, “I attempt to model a love for the beauty of language in its myriad forms. I am fascinated by what words can do, and I strive to let my students see my own passion, hoping that they might develop their own.” One student majoring in science said, “Mr. Lotier helped me to grow as a writer, as a student and taught me to think about situations from new perspectives.”
In addition to teaching statistics courses, Phillips assisted in designing the curriculum for a program to teach statistics teaching assistants to be more effective in office-hour settings, conceived of and helped implement a new shared office-hour structure for graduate TAs, and has taken the lead role in an initiative to develop common final exam questions. “Daisy has had a greater impact on undergraduate statistics education at Penn State during her relatively short time here than the majority of our faculty,” a nominator said. Phillips said she tries to help students who fear statistics to realize how it is applicable to their lives, noting, “I teach statistics because it is a subject that many students love to hate.”
For a 200-level philosophy course, Pollock developed a game that teaches the details of John Rawls’ political system; other instructors have adopted the game for their own classes. Pollock said he tries to mitigate student skepticism and apprehension by making his courses “as clear and transparent as possible” and “having students engage actively with the material.” One nominator said, “Ryan manages to be both interpersonally easygoing and intellectually tough on his students.”
Puglia has taught six different courses, with both online and residential classes for two of them; for American Studies 100, he developed the online course himself. “Students regularly praise his use of multimedia in his presentations and lessons,” a nominator said. “Instead of having students do the same thing for an entire class period, he employs diverse media and approaches in an open and supportive classroom.” Puglia said he tries to adapt his content to the student’s prior knowledge; “learning new information is valuable,” he said, “but finding new ways to think about familiar concepts is even more satisfying.”
Shade’s teaching has included a 300-student general education course, a skills-based lab course and a 400-level course that focuses on theory. “His versatility and ability to handle a range of material and settings has been most impressive,” one nominator said. “In all settings, he knows how to engage students, challenge students and treat them with respect and fairness.” Shade noted, “Real-world application is essential in each course I teach, and my desire is that my students will never forget the overarching concepts that were learned.”
Because of Stafford’s “stellar performance” piloting a new textbook, he was chosen as assistant coordinator for Intermediate French; he also has been “outstandingly successful” as on-site facilitator for Penn State’s summer language program in France, one nominator said: “He draws on both his own experiences and broadly ranging cultural materials to impart enthusiasm and critical reflection about French culture, leaving students ‘bowled over’ by his enthusiasm and knowledge.” Stafford said, “Teaching a foreign language allows me to fulfill what I consider one of the most important aspects of education: increasing students’ awareness of cultures and ideas other than their own.”
In Wu’s hospitality courses, she focuses on active and hands-on learning: “One of my missions as the teacher is to help students synthesize their previous professional experiences into course learning and make sure that ultimately students know how to apply what they learned in their future career,” she said. One student said, “She went above and beyond to make sure she always included real-world examples that pertained to the industry,” adding, “This helped me engage, learn and retain more information than in any other class.”