Professor surprised with Distinguished Teaching Award

Joanna Adolph

The educational technology class began normally.

David Dalton, associate professor of educational foundations and special services, was 15 minutes into a PowerPoint presentation. Suddenly, two photographers burst through the classroom door and faculty, students, staff and family members streamed in behind. As Education Dean David England congratulated Dalton, the 300-student classroom stood and applauded.

Dalton, who has been teaching at Kent State for 15 years, is one of three recipients of the Distinguished Teaching Award, which is given annually to three full-time faculty. To be considered, a student, alumnus or colleague must nominate the teacher for the award, which recognizes excellence in teaching and devotion to the lives of students.

Dalton and the other Distinguished Teaching Award recipients, Carolyn Brodie and John Jewell, will be formally awarded at the University Teaching Council tomorrow. Juliann Dorff, Sheri Leafgren and Thomas Rutledge will be receiving the Outstanding Teaching Award, which follows the same guidelines, but is given to part-time and non-tenure track faculty.

“The way that we tell them about this honor is we surprise them in class,” said Elizabeth Slanina, DTA coordinator and assistant director of alumni relations. “We bring snacks for all the students and an entourage from the alumni office and DTA committee, as well as their dean and department chair.”

Being a good teacher is something Dalton said he has hoped to be all his life.

“While I was getting my teaching license, I became enamored of the impact a college teacher could have on the world,” Dalton said. “As a teacher of future teachers, it’s not crazy to think you can make a small impact on the lives of thousands.”

For him, the award is more than recognition, Dalton said.

“With teaching, you never really know if you’re good at it, so the external recognition gives you the permission to feel good about it,” Dalton said. “Teaching is an act of quiet faith. For every student you reach, you feel like you let a bunch of others slip through the cracks.”

Dalton has a reputation as an especially dedicated and effective teacher, England said.

“Dalton brings great creativity, technological sophistication, an especially facile mind, an engaging personality and a strong knowledge of his field into every class,” England said. “Anyone who could do all those things consistently would certainly be outstanding, but only a very few like Dr. Dalton actually can.”

It is the time he takes with his students that most stands out, said Marian Maxfield, who nominated Dalton. Maxfield, an instructional technology doctorate student and instructor, has known Dalton for two and a half years and started working with him in January 2005.

“His office door is always open,” Maxfield said. “He’s willing to help students at any time. My most memorable experiences with him are the times he’s taken time with me as a student and as a teacher and encouraged me in my goals and in my profession.”

Maxfield, who was in the classroom when Dalton received the news about his award, said the best part of it was seeing the surprise on Dalton’s face.

“He was so humbled and honored,” Maxfield said. “Later that day, I remember he said he was truly honored that his staff and students would think so highly of him.”

The field of candidates for the Distinguished Teaching Award was strong this year, and that is one of the reasons why Dalton said he feels so honored to be selected.

“Technology can be used in a scholarly way,” Dalton said. “I hope to be able to share how technology, especially electronic portfolios, can make a difference in teaching and learning without sacrificing relationships and excellence.”

Contact alumni affairs reporter Joanna Adolph at [email protected].