Excellence in Teaching Award Winners 2010-2011

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Mr. Robert Fanning is an assistant professor of English Language and Literature.  Mr. Fanning has been at CMU since 2008.  Mr. Fanning is being recognized for his keen interest in students’ success and ability to engage student​s in the learning process as a creative educator.

Students describe Prof. Fanning as having “extreme respect for students and enormous enthusiasm about his subject matter” and as being “very positive, very upbeat, and delivering contagious passion”. One student referred to him as by stating, “Without exaggeration, I have never had a professor so enthusiastic and passionate about, as well as eager to teach, his craft.” In addition, another student shared Fanning’s ability to create a positive learning environment, “I have never had the pleasure of participating in a class of students more closely knit than my courses with Prof. Fanning. As fellow artists, poets, authors, and writers in general, we had many commonalities between us, which Prof. Fanning never failed to acknowledge as positively as our differences, all of which he would likely say make us that much more interesting.” Colleagues of Fanning also commented about his ability to provide a positive and professional role model for students. For example, one peer wrote, “He is so talented and yet carries it all with a personable and humble demeanor that makes us want to see what it is all about. It is example, modeling, enthusiasm, and genuineness at every turn.” Another colleague highlighted his approaches, “He seems to live and breathe his discipline, based on the fact that he is constantly involved in out-of-class literary events.” Several co-workers also emphasized Fanning’s level of enthusiasm and described it as “Explosive! Dynamite! Talked about all over campus. It is also controlled so that the goal of learning is always paramount.”

Ms. Cristen Vernon is an instructor in the Department of Foreign Languages, Literatures and Cultures.  She has been at CMU since 2008 and is being honored for her ability to enthusiastically and creatively engage students in learning.

 Former students shared that “every lesson is presented with such contagious high energy that her students want to respond and participate in class.  Another wrote “The enduring insight she possesses to fulfill the needs of her students is extraordinary; for each class she uses multiple activities and techniques to ensure that every student has an equal opportunity to understand the topic. “ One student offered “It is my goal in my career to be at least half the professor she is. Her love of teaching and her enthusiasm evokes an excitement in her students to learn. ”  Another student said “She shows tremendous respect toward her students and takes the time to know every single one of them.  Ms. Vernon measures her success by the progress her students make.”

Colleagues noted that “She brings a sense of community into the classroom via the various ways she organizes a class into discussion groups and especially evident in her service activities outside the classroom, which take the classroom learning a step further—a personal contact with another world perspective.”  Another colleague wrote “she is indefatigable in her commitment and availability to the students both in the classroom and in her many extracurricular activities.

Cristen Vernon is a superior teacher, role model, and friend and has had a positive impact on her students’ intellectual and personal lives.''

Ms. Kayla Slezak is an assistant professor in the Department of Management and has been teaching at CMU since 2008.  Ms. Slezak is recognized for being an exceptional mentor to her students.  Kayla’s energy and enthusiasm creates an interactive and engaging classroom.

Described by her students as having “exceptionally unique teaching methods” and as being “phenomenal at conveying subject matter in the classroom”, Kayla Slezak has positively impacted the lives of many CMU students during her teaching experiences. One student referred to her as “not only a remarkable professor, but also my mentor… her guidance has really helped me, much more than anyone could ever know.” Additionally, another student shared that the area of willingness to help and/or mentor students is where this instructor stands out. “She influenced me a great deal, and even came to an outside event to hear me speak in order to give me feedback on how to improve my public speaking… It is clear that she measures her own success by the success of her students, and that she genuinely cares about her students and wants the best from each of them.” Colleagues of Ms. Slezak also raved about her ability to convey information to students in an effective manner. For example, one peer wrote, “She is a voracious consumer of literature concerning both the discipline-specific literature and the scholarship of teaching. Because of this, she creates intentionally differentiated experiences that speak to students, employ multiple modalities of learning, build on prior knowledge, and link ideas and experiences throughout the course to help students integrate new concepts or ways of knowing, thinking, and doing.” Another colleague highlighted Ms. Slezak’s approaches, “Of special note is the use of action learning whereby students are assigned actual consulting projects with public or private sector organizations.” Several co-workers also applauded the classroom atmosphere she builds, “There is a high degree of energy as she creates a very interactive and engaging environment.”

Ms. Lorrie Murray has been an instructor in Foreign Languages, Literatures and Cultures at CMU since 2007.  Ms. Murray is awarded this honor for her contagious enthusiasm, energy, and creativity which facilitates student learning.

Ms. Murray’s high level of enthusiasm and dedication in the classroom are traits continually acknowledged and highlighted by her students. For example, one student wrote, “Ms. Murray is one of the most enthusiastic professors that I have ever had or met. Actually, I take that back. She IS the most enthusiastic professor that I have ever met. She brings to life the most boring subject material.” Another student described her as “extremely creative in her instructional methods and materials” and as having a strength for creating a positive environment, “Not only did her activities such as ice breakers and ‘get to know your neighbor’ activities, and group presentation helped us learn the language and accomplish the goals of the class, but those activities helped to create sense of comfort with each other, and overall, a sense of community in the classroom.” One student referred to her as “My favorite – I absolutely love her style!” Colleagues of Ms. Murray shared about positive strategies to engage students. Upon an observation, one of Ms. Murray’s peers overheard a student state, “I love this class! It’s like she tricks us into learning – It’s so much fun!” Another peer commented on her enthusiasm about teaching, “I cannot emphasize enough how thrilled she is to teach every day.” Another colleague highlighted Ms. Murray’s approaches, “I have to honestly say that in my 25 years of teaching, I have never seen a more creative instructor – one who amazes me time and time again with her innovative, humorous, yet relevant applications.”

Mr. Jeffrey Bean is an assistant professor in the English Language and Literature Department, where his focus is Creative Writing and Poetry.  In addition to his exceptional teaching, Jeff devotes significant time and effort advising his students.  Jeff Bean’s ability to bring words alive and turn them into indelible images shows in his poetry that is reflective of the passion, enthusiasm and vision that students, alumnus and peers have experienced.

Students and alumnus consistently commented on how Jeff positively impacted their lives and their personal connection to poetry: “This candidate was easily the most enthusiastic and passionate instructor I have had the pleasure of learning from.  He always encouraged a safe and welcoming atmosphere in which students were able to learn from one another.”  “It is easy to tell he lives for poetry.   He goes above and beyond teaching materials, wanting each student to love poetry as much as he does.”  A graduate student to the creative writing program wrote; “His classroom strategies have greatly influenced the way I approach my own classrooms as I am now an alumnus and instructor.”

Colleagues echoed the impact Jeff has made on his students:  “Jeff is brilliant at engaging students and communicating content.  His INCREDIBLE SOS (Student Opinion Survey) scores attest to this.  He treats students as active co-learners in and out of the classroom”.   Another wrote; “Jeff shows tremendous respect to his students-they speak of intelligence, creativity and kindness in the highest terms.  As a consummate professional, Jeff teaches his material fully and effectively and in a way that engages students.   He offers a mature role model on which they can fashion their own behavior and future careers.”

It is evident that Jeff has made a dramatic impact on his students and colleagues in the short time since he arrived a CMU in 2008.