University honors professors for outstanding teaching
Published: Thursday, April 12, 2012
Updated: Thursday, April 12, 2012 00:04
For some professors, teaching is more than textbooks and curriculum – it’s about changing students’ lives.
West Virginia University has honored six professors with the 2012 WVU Foundation Award for Oustanding Teaching. The recipients are from a wide range of disciplines, but all have made an impact on their students.
"I’m not afraid to go above and beyond in the classroom," said Gina Martino Dahlia, award recipient and assistant professor in the Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism.
Dahlia has a reputation for being demanding and tough, but also for bringing out the best in her students.
"If there’s a kid that doesn’t show up for class, I’ll call them," she said. "For some, it’s the first time a teacher has ever called on them, asked what they’re doing – and actually cared."
Dahlia said that personal interaction drives students to want to succeed, and she pushes even the most discouraged students to do their best. She said seeing her students succeed fuels her passion for teaching.
"It says a lot about the power that teachers have to shape somebody’s life and help them be all they can be," she said.
Award recipient Mark Schraf started his teaching career with an idea.
"I remember thinking, I was gonna be as animated as possible, to try and be the kind of chemistry teacher I never had when I was an undergrad," he said.
Schraf said he discovered a style of teaching that makes chemistry accessible to everyone.
"I go over the top and be animated and bring in tons of metaphors, so then everyone can laugh and relax," he said.
Schraf is a teaching assistant professor in the C. Eugene Bennett Department of Chemistry.
His casual style of dress and high energy lectures capture students’ attention – and help them learn some chemistry.
"I’ve never been one to shy away from making a fool of myself to get the point across. I felt, why not? If I can get their attention, then I can get them to learn," he said.
Schraf advises his students to pursue their passions, not just a big paycheck.
"Don’t do anything for the money, because the money will never be enough. Do what you love to do," he said. "Anytime you’re doing something and an hour has gone by and you didn’t even think any time had passed, you should do those things more often – it means you’re doing what you’re meant to do."
Other recipients of the award include: Brian Ballentine, assistant professor and professional writing and editing program coordinator; Kenneth P. Blemings, professor of biochemistry, genetics, and developmental biology with the WVU Division of Animal and Veterinary Sciences; James W. Lewis, assistant professor of physiology and pharmacology with the WVU Robert. C. Byrd Heath Sciences Center School of Medicine; and Kate Staples, assistant professor of history at WVU.