Faculty awarded for fine teaching

Kiera Manion-Fischer

President Lester Lefton announced the Distinguished Teaching Awards Friday afternoon in the Student Center ballroom. Dennis Hart, an associate professor of political science at Kent State Stark campus, recieved one of three distiguished teaching awards pr

Credit: Ron Soltys

Six faculty members were honored Friday for what President Lester Lefton called Kent State’s most important duty — teaching.

Three Distinguished Teaching Awards for tenure track faculty were presented to Dennis Hart, Steven Hook and Stephen Thomas during the University Teaching Council’s Celebrating College Teaching Conference.Hart, an associate professor of political science at Stark campus, said the political science department swept the awards, referring to the fact that political science faculty members won three of the six awards.

He said he finds teaching engaging.

“The most interesting of all is to have other people think, get them to see the world like they’ve never seen it before,” Hart said.

Hook, an associate professor of political science, said he was thrilled to receive the award.

“My approach is somewhat old-fashioned,” Hook said. “My teaching style is based on confronting my students directly and asking them questions that require a great deal of advance preparation.”

He said he tries to relate problems overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan to students’ lives.

“My students tend to know the stakes, but they tend not to know the background of those conflicts,” he said. “There’s a lot of crazy stuff going on in the world, and my job is to help students prepare for it.”

Thomas, a professor of teaching, leadership and curriculum studies, said he thought the award was his most important recognition.

“This is what we do for a living,” he said. “The primary thing that a professor should do is devote their time to teaching. It’s a life well-spent.”

Three Outstanding Teaching Awards, for term and non-tenure track faculty, were presented to Katherine Blackbird, Vernon Sykes and Steve Vickery.

Blackbird, a lecturer in English who teaches courses in creative writing, said the award isn’t as important as the opportunity to work with students who tell their own stories through writing.

“One of the gifts of teaching for me is the opportunity to really learn from my students,” Blackbird said.

Sykes, an assistant professor of political science, said the award shows recognition and appreciation for hard work. He said he was always thankful for the good teachers in his background.

“I’m a continuous student,” Sykes said. “I really appreciate what teachers have done for me. I’ve always wanted to be able to help others in the way that I’ve been helped.”

Vickery, a lecturer in modern and classical languages who is deaf, spoke in sign language through interpreter Stephanie Bowlin, an employee for student accessibility services.

Vickery, who teaches American Sign Language, said he thought the award was more for his students.

‘They’re the ones who brought me here,” he said.

This year is the 40th anniversary of the Distinguished Teaching Awards. Each year, three award winners are chosen out of 10 finalists. The Outstanding Teaching Awards have been going on for 12 years, and three winners were chosen out of seven finalists.

Each of the Distinguished Teaching Award winners was presented with a certificate, a crystal apple and a $1,500 award, while the Outstanding Teaching Award winners received engraved clocks.

The Distinguished Teaching Awards are sponsored by the Alumni Association, and the Outstanding Teaching Awards are sponsored by the University Teaching Council.

Contact academics reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at [email protected].