Three Kent State professors receive Outstanding Teaching Award

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Courtesy of Kent State University

Aaron Bacue is an Associate Lecturer in the School of Communication Studies. 

Jordan Bryski Reporter

Even some of Kent State’s best professors struggle. Three recipients received the Outstanding Teaching Award, despite the difficulties faced during the pandemic.

Aaron Bacue, Jamie McCartney and Ana Wetzl were nominated for the 2020-2021 Outstanding Teaching Award by their students for being among the most devoted, constructive and motivated professors at Kent State. 

Aaron Bacue, Associate Lecturer in the School of Communication Studies

Bacue, a communication professor for more than 20 years, was worried about not being able to teach right during the pandemic because his classes are discussion-oriented and tend to be impromptu. Being online disrupted that routine.

“I couldn’t read the nonverbals. Even though I asked my students to keep their cameras on, you can only see a certain portion of them,” Bacue said.

Remote learning had forced Bacue to think outside of the box and create some changes. His biggest change was adopting a new grading system. 

“It’s called un-grading. It’s really focused on qualitative feedback rather than quantitative assessment,” Bacue said.

Bacue finds importance in students understanding what they’re learning. He tries to incorporate real-world examples as part of his teaching strategy.

“I strive for my students to actually be able to apply and see the real-world applications of what I teach,” Bacue said. “I mean, that’s my goal is to have students leave and be able to make their lives better based on stuff they’ve learned from me, or in my class.” 

Receiving the award felt amazing to Bacue.  

“It’s one of the best experiences in my years of teaching,” Bacue said. “It feels fantastic because it’s from the students, but also because it was at a time where I was questioning my skill because of remote learning.”

Bacue always feels proud when students come back and say thank you. 

“It’s the success of my students that I’m most proud of,” Bacue said.

Jamie McCartney, Program Coordinator/Associate Professor in the School of Lifespan Development and Educational Sciences

McCartney, an American Sign Language professor and interpreter, had petitioned the school to stay in person when classes were moved online because of technology issues and students’ mental health. She felt it was important to be together in person.

However, teaching was still difficult because of the mask barrier. 

“A lot of students got into a habit of just not having any facial grammar from the nose down because they knew it was covered,” McCarteny said. “It creates a huge barrier for deaf people to be able to understand us with a mask on.”

Putting students in real-world situations is something McCartney loves to do when teaching, she said.

“I think it’s the best way for students to learn,” McCartney said. “I’m uber passionate about interpreting and I just want my students to be passionate about it too.”

Receiving the award had felt wonderful to McCartney. 

“It feels like tangible evidence to know there’s been some yield for almost 30 years of work,” McCartney said. “It’s nice to be honored by your students.”

Ana Wetzl, Assistant English Professor at Trumbull campus

When students were moved to remote learning in the spring, Wetzl, an applied linguistic and composition professor at Trumbull campus, said it was a mess. 

“It wasn’t what the students signed up for, and there was so little preparation,” Wetzl said. “Many of my students didn’t have the necessary tools.”

However, Wetzl had 10 years of experience with online learning and was able to do many synchronous courses. 

“Is it nicer to be in the classroom? Yes, but it wasn’t that big of a change,” Wetzl said. “A lot of what you learn in a writing course comes from the one-on-one interaction between you and the instructor.”

A big accomplishment for Wetzl is seeing her students accomplish their goals. 

“I teach many of the freshman writing courses and those are not for English majors. They’re for everybody,” Wezl said. “To see them walk down that stage every May, it’s very, very rewarding,” she said. 

Wetzl appreciated receiving the award and said it was humbling. 

“My students are very busy people, they have jobs, they have kids and they actually took the time, ” Wetzl said. “They went out of their way to do this.” 

Recognizing regional faculty was a big deal for not only Wetzl, but her colleagues and the campus itself, she said.

Jordan Bryski is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected]