‘Outstanding’ teachers care about students

Jackie Valley

Every year, the University Teaching Council honors full-time non-tenure track and part-time faculty with the Outstanding Teaching Award. The winners can be nominated by students, faculty, staff or alumni. This year’s winners were chosen earlier in October through surprise visits to their classes.

Rob Jewell, public relations

Public relations professor Rob Jewell places helping students succeed at the top of his priority list.

In his fourth year as a full-time faculty member at Kent State, Jewell said he hopes students would describe him as not only a person who has excellent professional skills, but as a teacher who is successful in helping his students develop those same skills.

“I try to have my students think strategically and about how they could apply what we learn in the classroom to the professional world,” Jewell said.

In addition to teaching classes, Jewell supervises Flash Communications, a joint project between the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Office of University Communications and Marketing. This organization helps students gain practical and professional experience in public relations and marketing.

Before teaching, Jewell spent 30 years in business working for B.F. Goodrich in Akron.

“Teaching was always something that I wanted to do,” Jewell said.

Jewell applies the attributes of a good manager – listening well and nurturing employees’ skills – to the classroom.

Although he devotes much of his time preparing for classes and helping students, Jewell spends his free time pursuing his various interests, including running and reading.

Being chosen as a winner of the Outstanding Teaching Award is very gratifying, and it is made better by the fact that students nominate the professors, Jewell said.

Joe Minerovic, mathematical sciences

“Shocked” was the word mathematical sciences professor Joe Minerovic used to describe the emotions he felt after being chosen as a recipient of the 2006 Outstanding Teaching Awards.

Minerovic said he will “never forget the moment” committee chairpersons and other colleagues surprised him with the award during his 9:55 a.m. class on Oct. 10.

“I am both humbled and honored to be a recipient, although part of me believes that I have just been doing what I was hired to do here at Kent State,” Minerovic said.

In his 23rd year teaching at Kent State, Minerovic said he is not 100 percent sure how his students would describe him, but is generally warmly received by past students.

“When I see any of my past students, they usually don’t turn and run, but come over and shake my hand,” he said. “That means a lot.”

Minerovic credits three influential mathematics teachers as his inspiration to go into teaching: his Streetsboro High School math teacher, Mrs. Parr, who instilled in him an initial interest in mathematics; his Muskingum College professor, Coleman Knight, who taught him the four “F’s” of teaching – to be fair, firm, frank and friendly with students; and his Kent State graduate school professor, Kenneth Cummins, after whom he has modeled his teaching.

When Minerovic is not spending time watching his three teenagers participate in various activities, he enjoys playing golf, fantasy football, his mini-arcade and working out.

Walter Pechenuk, computer sciences

Computer sciences professor Walter Pechenuk believes teaching is more than just speaking in front of a group or showing a Power Point presentation.

Keeping his students’ interests at heart and knowing they face incredible pressure between working and attending college, Pechenuk said, “I try to do everything I can to help them get their studies done.”

This is Pechenuk’s seventh year at Kent State. His previous jobs took him around the world as he worked for the government in Washington D.C., as a researcher for the University of Alberta in Canada and as a freelance translator and interpreter with assignments across the United States, Canada, Ukraine and Belarus.

Although Pechenuk began teaching later in life, he said he always had an interest in teaching and especially enjoys teaching college students.

In class, Pechenuk said he takes an interest in his students, getting to know all their names and where they are from.

“I usually try to run my classes as discussions,” he said. “I think it is important for students to talk in class and get to know each other.”

When Pechenuk is not in the classroom, he enjoys watching movies and traveling but admits he has not had much time for either lately. He received his executive MBA in May from Kent State and is currently taking courses in higher education administration.

“I am very honored to get this award, and I’m very happy people appreciate the work I do,” he said. “It always feels good to know people appreciate the work I do.”

Contact news correspondent Jackie Valley at [email protected].