Distinguished Teaching Award approaches 50th anniversary

Kent States Distinguished Teaching Award is approaching an important milestone: it’s 50-year anniversary.  

“It was created to establish outstanding teaching in the classroom for our tenure track faculty members,” said Nancy Schiappa, director of outreach and engagement for Kent State’s Alumni Association. “The award helps to recognize our faculty because they play an incredible role with our students who then become alumni.”

Maureen Blankemeyer, an associate professor in the School of Lifespan Development and Educational Services, recalls the moment she first realized she wanted to become an educator.

“The thought of teaching didn’t even dawn on me until I was in grad school giving a required presentation in class,” said Blankemeyer, who received the 2015 Distinguished Teaching Award. “I was nervous, but I realized I liked being able to connect with others when I presented the information I had learned. The professor was supportive and complimented my presentation style. Without a doubt, that definitely inspired me … to start teaching.”

In order to qualify for the award, professors must meet certain eligibility requirements, including being on a full-time teaching contract. Further, current winners are not eligible, according to the Alumni Association’s website. 

To select the winners, “We have a committee of alumni and students. They review all of the nominations and then they select a group, which is narrowed down to 10 finalists,” Schiappa said. “The finalists are notified and they are asked to submit a portfolio, and then the committee reassembles and from a secret ballot they vote for the three winners.”

The award presentation is a two-part process that the winners get to experience. 

“Once we pick the recipients, several members of the committee, some of the staff from our office and members of whatever college that person is from … go into their classroom while they are teaching and surprise them. We take a video and some pictures and bring some type of snack,” Schiappa said. “They get a bouquet of balloons and a sign they get to hold up. They are usually kind of in shock, so we talk to them and get their reaction. We also take a moment to let the students know of their ability to nominate their teachers.”

The process comes to an end at the end of October during the University Teaching Council Conference, an all-day event. This is where the finalists and the winners are recognized and receive a crystal apple with their name etched on it, Schiappa said. 

“There is a list of winners on the website and we used to put plaques up in the Student Center, but now the list is being moved to a digitalized version,” Schiappa said.

The list is currently in the process of being finalized. Set to be located on the third floor of the library, the display will rotate through the names and pictures of the winners.

If interested in nominating a professor from any Kent State campus, members of the Kent State community can do so until June 30.

Caleigh Marten is an administration reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]