Excellence in Teaching Award Winners 2013-2014

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Elizabeth AlmDr. Elizabeth Alm is Professor in the Biology Department and has been a faculty member at Central Michigan University since 1996. 

One student shared that "Dr. Alm helped us become engaged students by encouraging us to become active students and engaging us in discussions about the subject. This has had a tremendous impact on me personally. Before taking her class, I would have classified myself as a shy, quiet student. I was afraid to talk, mostly due to the fear of saying the wrong answer. Through this professor’s constant encouragement for active discussion by all students, I transformed into a fully engaged student. I became excited to bring up an idea or comment about a topic, never fearing if what I was saying was incorrect or sounded silly." Another student noted that Dr. Alm continually displayed "a clear passion for the subject she was teaching. She had a smile on her face for every single lecture.” Additionally, students commented on Dr. Alm’s ability to connect course content to practical application by sharing related news articles and events.  Yet another student commented on Dr. Alm’s ability to engage learners, “In any classroom, when it gets to be about 10 minutes before class is out, if you listen you can hear zippers being zipped, books being placed back into backpacks. This does not happen in her class... it was all so important and interesting.”

According to a colleague, "Dr. Alm has an elegant and professional demeanor in the classroom. Students respect her and appear to learn well from her teaching style. She is an excellent role model for young women who have the potential to become future scientists and medical professionals.”  Another colleague noted, "she is always interested in expanding approaches for better inspiring and engaging students and to challenge them with complex topics." 

The students appreciate and respect the teaching philosophy Dr. Alm incorporates in the classroom, “My main responsibility is as a facilitator in a life-long learning process. I can encourage students to greater involvement and higher achievement when I clearly communicate high expectations of them and by introducing topics in ways to pique student’s curiosity, teaching at a challenging pace that shows respect for their abilities, using varied and interesting teaching styles, focusing on higher-order thought processes, and by giving students the responsibility for learning.

Matthew EchelbergerMr. Matthew Echelberger is a team member in the English Language and Literature Department in the College of Humanities and Social and Behavior Sciences.

According to a colleague, "He plans wonderfully creative and practical assignments that fully engage students and motivate them to love the learning process for itself. Teaching is by example and enthusiasm. Students’ work receives tireless attention and encouragement, as well as personal and detailed specific suggestions to improve not only their work, but their work habits and attitudes about succeeding all the way through college. Every class is purposeful, challenging, and about what students need.”  Another colleague noted, "In my four decades of teaching I have known no one with so keen an intellect as Matt Echelberger. Well-read, able to make connections, practical in all applications, and always tuned to what each student needs, he has deep insights, is a very quick learner, enjoys teaching, and always spreads that vibrancy and enthusiasm with students who have the greatest respect for all they know is being done for them. He is a great problem solver with outstanding insights into the future of higher education." 
One student shared that "It is amazing how this professor made individual time for each student for maximum learning." His dedication to his students is evident in comments from another student, “For the first time in my life I felt that academics had importance in my life. He brought the very best out of me by challenging me to be greater.” Additionally, “He really pushes students to try their best. He is respectful to each and every student.”

In his teaching philosophy, Matt Echelberger addressed teaching practices related to increasing the comfort and skill level of his students, "To write can create a great degree of personal risk for students, especially when professors ask students to share that material with other students. Modeling by the professor can help to ease some of the risk for students… I write most of the assignments that I give to my students. The excitement and discomfort that I feel is doing this is a healthy reminder of what I am asking of them to do.” 

Adam EpsteinDr. Adam Epstein is an important member of the College of Business Administration. As a faculty member in the Finance and Law department, Dr. Epstein interacts with students that describe him as inspirational, influential, and a positive role model.

Dr. Epstein’s students continually refer to his ability to create a positive learning environment. “He does a phenomenal job of incorporating real-life examples into lessons. The enthusiasm and passion he brings to the classroom made the course content so interesting and inspired every student to engage in conversation. His ability to really connect with every student and make sure they walked away from class with information they could use in the future was so evident.” Another student stated, “Dr. Epstein cares about giving students the highest opportunity for success. He goes as far as to make it a personal goal, outside of the classroom, to help play an active role in the professional development of his students. Not only does he encourage students to develop themselves in a professional manner, but he leads by example in continuing to pursue his own education and professional accomplishments.”

Dr. Epstein stated himself, “My teaching philosophy is to create a comfortable, valuable and professional learning environment in which students want to attend class and learn, resulting in positive life-long memories and practical skills and information. I want my students to believe that they are all valued members of our community and have the chance to participate in a dynamic, engaging, and useful course.”

One of his colleagues shared, “He has always exemplified the epitome of what a CMU professor should be… Firecrackers would not be more effective in getting the student’s attention. In his classes, you do not see students reading the paper, using their cell phone, or otherwise being inattentive – It is like watching a well-organized basketball coach in that when the huddle is called, all eyes and ears are on the coach to find out what is being said. His obvious enjoyment of the classroom environment spreads quickly to the students. Rarely are there not lively discussions and give and take.”

Rene ShinglesDr. René Shingles is an important team member of the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow College of Health Professions. As a Professor in the Rehabilitation and Medical Sciences program, she currently serves as the Director of the Athletic Training program.

According to a colleague, "Bar none, Dr. Shingles is enthusiastic about sharing a wealth of information with students! It is often new subject matter, and she does a remarkable job of conveying the importance through enthusiasm. Her passion is evident.”  

Additionally, "words like ‘enthusiastic, passionate, knowledgeable, and open’ are some of the words used to describe her interaction with students. They ADORE her!" Another colleague noted, “Dr. Shingles is active in her professional organization and has received a number of awards and recognitions. She has certainly been a strong model for the students for active engagement in professional issues.”

One student shared that "By doing many hands-on activities within the classroom she helped increase the overall knowledge level of the class. Dr. Shingles was amazing at keeping the students interested in the topic. If it was telling a personal story to help make the topic more exciting or asking questions, she used bold communication skills to engage the classroom.” An alumni commented, “She never let us be satisfied with just being ‘good’. She always demanded that we act like true professionals at all times, and in my experience, still demands it. When we discuss my related career tasks, she still demands that I perform to my highest potential and more.”

In her teaching philosophy, Dr. Shingles addressed teaching practices related to building rapport with her students, "The best example of how I build rapport with students has to do with how I openly share stories about myself with my students. I tell them about my education, where and how I grew up, and about my professional experiences. Often, I have a story that relates to the topic we are discussing. Likewise, I invite students to share their stories and experiences with me and their classmates. I listen intently and thank them for sharing." 


Jennifer WirzDr. Jennifer Wirz is an assistant professor of special education and has been a faculty member at Central Michigan University since 2010.   Her research and teaching interests include co-teaching and inclusive practices; professional development for in-service teachers; students with emotional/behavior disorders; assessment in education with an emphasis on curriculum-based measurement; and special education policy and law.

According to a colleague, "[Dr. Wirz] is very passionate about preparing future teachers.  She always relates assignment and expectations in her classes to real-life situations that students will be expected to address."  Her colleague also noted, "I can attest to numerous accounts of overhearing students who have had her as an instructor state how much they have learned from her and how they feel prepared for the realities of student teaching."  

Another colleague noted, "The passion for teaching CMU students by this person is impossible to ignore.  The students talk of this dedication and benefit from the contagious nature of the teaching style and interaction opportunities."

One student shared that, "My instructor was excellent at maximizing student engagement in class.  To do this, she differentiated her instruction multiple times during an individual class period."  Another student noted, "When students walk into her room they know that she cares about them, which translates to students being more willing to contribute to class discussions, ask questions during class, and answer questions during class."  

In her teaching philosophy, Dr. Wirz explained, "I encourage them to take an active role in their future as an educator...We are not just learning facts and redundant information.  We are learning skills that will allow us to assist students with disabilities to grow and lead independent lives.  We are their advocates and our role in their lives is significant.”