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Three honored as WVU Foundation Outstanding Teachers of 2014

on Tue, 04/01/2014 - 12:40

For these three professors, the role of teacher transcends lecturing and grading assignments.

They aim to cultivate the ultimate learning experience – to inspire students to once unattainable levels of achievement and passion.

The West Virginia University Foundation celebrates this special breed of teacher each year with its Award for Outstanding Teaching.

This year's honorees are: Gregory Bowman, College of Law; Elizabeth Juckett, Department of English; and Claire St. Peter, Department of Psychology.

“These three faculty members embody what is special about WVU. They go above and beyond imparting information; they impart life lessons, and their impact on students lasts well beyond Commencement,” Provost Michele Wheatly said. “We also thank the Foundation for making recognition of our outstanding possible.”

The WVU Foundation established the awards in 1985 as a way to celebrate faculty who’ve established patterns of distinguished teaching and exceptional innovation in teaching methods, course and curriculum design, and instructional tools. A list of previous recipients is available here.

“Because of the generosity of our donors, the WVU Foundation is pleased to be able to fund these awards annually,” said Cindi Roth, Foundation president and CEO. “We salute this year’s winners who are truly outstanding in their fields of study. WVU is fortunate to have such high caliber faculty.”

Gregory Bowman

The students in Bowman's classes first show up for the engaging and interactive lectures, but they come back because of how much he cares about them.

Bowman is a professor of law, associate dean for academic affairs and the College of Law's 2010-11 Professor of the Year. If you talk to the practicing attorneys, judicial clerks and other professionals who have learned from him, they'll say he's the consummate teacher and professional.

He says he believes his students are setting themselves on the path toward changing the world, and he tries to help them see it.

"I ask all of my students to think about how they want to change the world, and why, and how they might carry out that change," Bowman says. "The answers are different for each student, but their answers are always important, and always profound.

"I believe passionately in the importance of education as a way to better our society. And our students at WVU Law come from all walks of life and bring so many amazing and diverse talents and perspectives into the classroom. My job isn't really to 'teach' them by imparting knowledge—my job is to help them discover and unlock their inner potential and take that potential out into the world."

Amber Moore, now an associate attorney with the firm of Steptoe & Johnson, admired the lengths he went to in tailoring content for his International Trade Regulation course, for which there was no suitable existing text. Later, she saw that same dedication when she worked with him as a tutor for students in his first-year Contract Law class.

"I met with Professor Bowman regularly to update him on what concepts his students were struggling to understand," Moore said. "He would brainstorm a new approach to teaching this concept and devote a few minutes of his next class to covering it again. Professor Bowman's primary concern is that his students learn and succeed, and he goes out of his way to achieve that goal."

Elizabeth Juckett

Elizabeth Juckett describes herself as a "generalist" within the English department.

She teaches a range of undergraduate literature courses, as well as a professional writing class, every semester. Therefore, the content for each class can be as diverse as a Percy Bysshe Shelley poem or a young adult novel like Divergent.

Despite the disparity between classes, Juckett, a teaching assistant professor, strives for the same goal: To encourage student engagement and help them make real, personal connections with a literary text or writing project.

"Overall, I think the skills English teachers are able to help students acquire are terrifically important – the ability to express themselves capably in writing and in discussion, to engage in critical thinking, to develop their own tastes and aesthetic values; these are all fundamental assets for developing a vocation, and really, for being human," Juckett said.

Born in Bangkok, Thailand, Juckett attended Chefoo School, a British boarding school in Malaysia, and completed middle and high school in Pennsylvania. She then graduated from Wheaton College, earned her master's degree in English from the University of Chicago, and completed her doctoral studies in English at the University of Pennsylvania in 1986.

Juckett has taught English at WVU since 1989.

The most rewarding moment of her teaching career was when she introduced a student who "really hated poetry" to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. That student then went out and bought Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese for his own personal library.

Another former student said he now applies the skills learned in one of Juckett's classes in his current career – not in English or writing, but in medicine.

"She encouraged students to become actively involved, to apply these skills," said Masih Ahmed. "I remember the project we had to complete in a group in class, the recommendation project and presentation project. That promoted teamwork, cooperation and how to reach a specific audience. These are skills I have had to use often in my career in medicine and I owe that to Dr. Juckett.

"Dr. Juckett is an outstanding educator because her relationship with her students does not end with they finish her course."

Ahmed said that Juckett willingly helped him with his curriculum vita and resume for residency positions following medical school – five years after he'd been her student.

Claire St. Peter

Each semester, Claire St. Peter redesigns her classes based on the interests of her students.

The associate professor of psychology takes inventory of students’ goals at the beginning of her Psych 474 class and then tailors the content and examples to those interests. She incorporates relevant material for each student – that way, every student can see how psychology relates to his or her career goal.

That one-on-one attention surpasses boundaries of the classroom. On the weekends, the associate professor of psychology is responding to emails and after class, she is meeting with groups of students.

Her generosity with her time has earned her titles of “favorite teacher,” “most helpful” and “most caring” amongst students in the Eberly College of Arts & Sciences.

St. Peter, who earned her Ph.D. at the University of Florida and joined WVU in 2006, focuses her classroom on experiential learning about the science of psychology. Her students don’t only read about techniques, though. They apply them to real-world settings. These experiences allow them to better understand the content and apply it across situations.

“I want students to be able to use the information that they learned in addition to knowing the facts associated with the content,” said St. Peter. “For this reason, I focus on having students engage in hands-on, interactive learning activities. I want students to be able to use and apply the material that they learn in my courses, regardless of their long-term professional goals.”

St. Peter also blends teaching, research and service support in a collaborative relationship with Monongalia County Schools, where she coordinates a teacher-training program that has result in seven district teachers becoming Board Certified Behavior Analysts.

And, she worked with her department to establish a behavior analysis certification course sequence for undergraduates. WVU is now one of only 105 universities in the world to offer the nationally approved course sequence.

Beyond applications, accolades and scholarship, what sets St. Peter apart for student Miranda Smalley is her overall compassion.

“She truly cares, not only about the well-being of her students, but their futures, also. She wants you to be preparing no matter what,” Smalley said. “After helping me find the right career path after college, I could not stop thanking her. She replied to me with ‘I want to help people who want to help people. That’s why I became a professor.’”

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