Teaching Award Winners
Congratulations to the 2022 UF Teaching Award Winners
From Art 100 to Physics 101, about 500 different instructors teach Boise State’s Foundational courses for non-majors. These teachers are responsible for approximately one-third of all the courses students take. Yet their essential work has often gone unrecognized.
That’s why the General Education Committee of Boise State’s faculty senate created the University Foundations Teaching Awards. The following faculty were nominated by students, fellow instructors, or department chairs based on evidence of exemplary teaching, creativity in course design or implementation, and excellence in translating disciplinary methods of inquiry to non-majors.
Unfortunately, this year’s teaching awards ceremony couldn’t take place in person. But we hope this year’s winners still feel acknowledged and proud of their accomplishments. Do you see colleagues on the winner’s list below? Make sure to congratulate them.
2022 Award Winners
- Foundations of Written Communication: David Scott
- Foundations of Oral Communication: Gerdonna Ellis
- Foundations of Humanities: Janie Kiser
- Foundations of Mathematics: Jean Schneider
- Foundations of Natural, Physical, and Applied Sciences: Daniel Luna
- Foundations of Social Sciences: Shelly Volsche
- Foundations of Arts: Kim Ganong
- UF 100: Foundations of Intellectual Life: Shelton Woods and Wendy Wong
- UF 200: Foundations of Ethics and Diversity: Greg Heinzman
- Finishing Foundations: Jamie Sands
FOUNDATIONS OF WRITTEN COMMUNICATION
Former Director of First-Year Writing, Heidi Estrem writes:
- “David is just the kind of instructor we want students to encounter during their first years in college: he’s warm, insightful, and welcoming. He is viewed as a key member of our program who both contributes to significant curriculum revisions, coordinates campus-wide initiatives like the President’s Writing Awards, and offers words of encouragement in difficult days”
David’s students agree:
- One student said: “I loved getting feedback from my peers and from the professor. I honestly expected English to be boring but this class was so interesting. I feel like the content actually helped me learn instead of memorizing information!”
- Another student summed up David’s impact by saying: “His class is not just about writing essays but about actually learning how to communicate ideas.”
FOUNDATIONS OF ORAL COMMUNICATION
The Foundations for Oral Communication Sub-Committee noted:
- “GerDonna Ellis was nominated for her excellence in engaging students with innovative teaching practices that encourage students to take ownership of their learning and motivate them to make connections between Fundamentals of Oral Communication and their area of study. GerDonna strives to help her students, most in their first year of college, step out of their comfort zones and embrace an active learning approach.”
Student nominators also made it clear that they appreciated how relevant and engaging she made the course. One student wrote:
- “Even though I am not a Comm major, she made this class interesting. She applied the topics and course material to other aspects of life that are beneficial to my education. She also created fun projects and group speeches.”
Another student simply summed her experience up by stating:
- “Professor Ellis was an amazing teacher and prepared me for any speech I may give in my life!”
FOUNDATIONS OF HUMANITIES
After observing Janie’s classes, course coordinator Professor Fatima Cornwall wrote:
- “She made every minute spent in the classroom an enjoyable learning experience for her students. Her lesson plan was carefully thought out to provide the students with many venues for learning the material in a more active way. She gave all her students ownership in the learning process, by having them work in small groups and pairs. She was there to direct and guide the students, not to lecture, and she did it all in the target language.”
Her students say:
- “She truly cares about the success and knowledge of her students…”
- “She is super enthusiastic and loves what she does.”
- “[She] makes the class worthwhile.”
FOUNDATIONS OF MATHEMATICS
Jean has implemented process-oriented guided inquiry learning practices (POGIL) in her courses; authoring tailored course content, worksheets, and instructional videos that help her flip the classroom. She actively engages in curriculum development for existing and new courses, including the recently developed Math 161, Mathematics for Data Science. She is also course coordinator for Math 160, guiding new instructors who often comment on how much they appreciate her mentoring and materials.
Jean states that her teaching goal is to help students who take her non-major math courses “walk away with a confidence in their ability to learn mathematical concepts, a positive attitude toward the ways math can enlighten the world around them, and a desire to know more.”
Jean’s excellent student evaluations indicate that even skeptical students usually come to see that her teaching approach works:
- “I didn’t always like working in groups,” one student wrote, “but in the end it helped me learn more in this math class than I have in any other.”
FOUNDATIONS OF SCIENCES
Daniel Luna’s geoscience courses help students understand the historical development of scientific theories and methods over time, illustrate the contemporary impact of the natural sciences by helping students use public data about the world they live in right now, and feature lecture and laboratory activities that engage students in genuine inquiry
- “Lectures are real-life related and super interesting,” writes one student. “He is always looking to better each student by relating his teachings to his own life,” writes another. Dr. Luna “brought in examples of how some concepts are used outside of geology, and explained complicated concepts clearly and concisely,” writes a third.
- “I would say as a History major and as someone who generally only finds only the humanities interesting, I was always fully engaged and fascinated by the course material. Dr. Luna always tried to connect the dots,” a further student sums up. “I would say that I never really understood the concepts of the scientific method until I took Dr. Luna’s Geology 102 class. Now that I understand the scientific method more it has really changed my outlook on the world and how I analyze information.”
FOUNDATIONS OF SOCIAL SCIENCES
Shelly not only concentrates on helping students do the hard work of synthesis and analysis rather than memorization, she is deeply engaged in helping entering students become comfortable and connected to the University, an effort that helps students succeed not only in Anthropology 102 but in all of their courses. Shelly consistently asks students to think about the broader impacts of what they are learning and to consider how theories and frameworks pertain to their daily lives and majors.
Shelly received a number of student nominations, and along with other praise, each student honed in on her ability to make the course relevant:
- “I loved the way our instructor tied the concepts to college and our lives. She made every idea hit home,” one student wrote.
- “She got me interested in something very unrelated to my major,” wrote another student.
- A third summed up: “This is unlike any other class at BSU. The organization of the class is clear and thorough. It is apparent that Dr. Shelly Volsche actually cares about teaching this class. This material actually applies to everything in life!”
FOUNDATIONS OF ARTS
Kim was nominated because of her active learning approach to teaching students to appreciate and analyze music. Her student nominees cited the interactive, multimodal ways they were asked to explore musical concepts, structures, and history.
- “Dr. G was a phenomenal professor. “ wrote one student. “[She] made her course both interesting and engaging for students. Her assignments were fun and appealing and made students want to participate in coursework.”
- Another student summed up: “I signed up for Intro to Jazz solely for the credits to get an associates degree; not only was I surprised by how interesting the subject is, I might consider this to have been my favorite class this semester.”
Shelton Woods: UF 100 Lead
Over the last three years, Shelton Woods has received more student nominations than any other instructor. Here is was just a few of the many students who nominated him for this award had to say:
- One student wrote: “His lectures were always really interesting and made me genuinely excited to go to class each week. This is very impressive considering that my least favorite subject in high school was by far history.”
- Another said: “He is passionate, knowledgeable, personable, and he made you reflect on your own life and own experiences. He made me want to learn the material.”
- A third stated: “He taught me that it was okay to change my mind about my major and who I am and with every aspect in my life. Dr. Woods only taught me for one semester, but I almost joined Honors to spend more time as his student.”
- A last student summed up: “Dr. Woods cares about every single student in every single class he has.”
Wendy Wong: UF 100 Discussion Group Leader
The lead instructors Wendy has worked with say that having her as part of a UF 100 teaching team always makes a course better. And here’s a few words from one of multiple students who nominated her:
- “She was always the perfect balance of nice and tough on us, she would call people out for missing class and being lazy but without embarrassing them. She gave us a lot of real life advice that really resonated with me. She understood what it feels like to be a freshman in college and her wisdom and teaching skills were beyond what I expected from a uf100 class . . . I wish I could have her again!”
Greg Heinzman’s UF 200 course on migrants and refugees is consistently cited by students as an important and eye-opening course. His students note his dedication to creating an honest and respectful classroom community, as well as his skill at helping them explore difficult topics with open minds.
As usual the students say it best:
- “He turned a class I thought I’d complain about, into a class that I wanted to go to everyday. I looked forward to this class because of the way he presented the information to us.”
- “We talked about a number of touchy topics with complete respect, dignity, and knowledge. There was not one part of his class where I didn’t learn a plethora of important information from credible sources.”
- “[He] really understood and connected to the students – through an online class which was even more impressive. [He] also understood that you have to show a bit of vulnerability with your students to facilitate a safe place to share your thoughts. This class changed my way of thinking.”
Jamie Sands teaches a key finishing foundations course that serves as the capstone for multiple Health Sciences programs. She has supported the goals of University Foundations by serving on the FF subcommittee, helping them do the important work of revising FF courses to meet new university guidelines.
Jamie has embraced the importance of reflection in capstone courses as an opportunity for her students to develop a capacity for change, helping them think forward and back not just about how they will collaborate with others to deliver patient-centered care in their future professional roles, but also about how their education at Boise State has prepared them to contribute to their communities as citizens.