Cook, Gunter, Shettlesworth Named 'Outstanding' at TTUThese Tennessee Technological University faculty members share a legacy as they weave teaching and service into their busy lives -- they change people's lives often and for the better. And for that mutual legacy, they have received the university's 2000 Outstanding Teaching and Professional Service Awards.
S. Bradford Cook, associate professor of biology, and Michael Gunter, professor of political science, have been named the recipients of Tennessee Tech's Outstanding Faculty Awards in Teaching. Juanita Shettlesworth, assistant professor of Spanish, has been named the recipient of TTU's Outstanding Faculty Award in Professional Service.
All three were recognized for their achievements and receive a plaque and $1,500 honorarium during the university's spring commencement ceremonies.
Freshmen flock to Cook's section of Biology 111, General Zoology, because they've heard he's the best -- and that's telling evidence of his talent for teaching.
Daniel Combs, TTU's interim chairperson of biology, agrees with students and colleagues about Cook's formula for success as an instructor.
"He realizes the importance of providing extra encouragement to freshmen, especially to those who are unsure of their abilities to succeed," said Combs. "Not only does he teach large classes, but he also provides a great deal of individual instruction."
It's the individual attention that impresses students the most, considering Cook wears many hats: He coordinates lab sections, advises as many as five graduate students at a time, provides undergraduates with special topics classes including field research, teaches a variety of upper-division classes, keeps the department updated on instructional technology, and still takes time to teach freshmen in University 101 classes.
"People are always lined up outside his office to speak with him," said student Preston Steve Winesett Jr. "How he is able to deal with everyone and complete his own work is beyond me. He is friendly, always willing to help, and maintains a student-teacher relationship built on trust and mutual respect."
As part of his current research, Cook is assessing stream habitat and biological communities associated with bridges and culverts in Tennessee. He is also working with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in evaluations surrounding brook trout restoration efforts. Cook's students often find that the opportunities he gives them to participate in field research serve them well when they look for positions with public agencies or private consulting firms.
"Students are given the unique opportunity to participate in field research," said Combs. "Although field work involves a great deal of preparatory time and many unforeseen problems, Dr. Cook insists that these essential components be included in his courses. He devotes a tremendous amount of time to ensure his students receive a quality education."
Gunter is well-known for his expertise on the Middle East; he's one of the few acknowledged experts on Kurds in Turkey and Iraq. He's written seven books on the Kurdish struggle, and his phone often rings when radio, newspaper and television reporters need analysis and comment on news breaking in the Middle East.
But it's in the classroom, where only his students know how he communicates his vast knowledge, where he earns equal, if not more, respect, loyalty and devotion.
"His classes were electric, and by that I mean you could feel yourself learning," said former student Richard E. Cooper of Atlanta. "And he had style, refined and substantive. His classes were more than lectures -- they were well-crafted, unbiased, challenging, up-to-date, at times humorous, and in hindsight, truly remarkable."
Gunter is only the second faculty member to win both the Caplenor Faculty Research Award and the Outstanding Teaching Award (the first was history professor George Webb). His creativity and time could be absorbed by his travels to Turkey, Israel, Egypt, Iraq and other countries. But his students say his extensive travels and research allow him to give a personal touch to his course materials.
Former TTU athlete Larrie Smith will never forget the personal message Gunter sent him after class one day.
"Dr. Gunter called my name and pulled me to the side," said Smith. "I was very nervous, but all he wanted was to tell me what a good job I was doing. Later that night, with this conversation fresh in my mind, I thought of how I was struggling with school and basketball, but he had made me feel more motivated and confident in myself."
When she volunteered years ago to translate and interpret free-of-charge for non-English speaking Hispanics in the community, Shettlesworth never expected to be on call 24 hours a day for the city police, sheriff's office and hospital.
She also never imagined she would find herself in an emergency room in the middle of the night talking with a young boy who had been pulled from a car wreck and was covered with blood. He was scared and couldn't speak English; nurses rushed to her aid when she almost fainted. But the boy's dilemma and her early work with law enforcement officers opened her eyes to a great need.
Individuals, university departments, businesses and area service organizations, including Cookeville Rotary, regularly call upon Shettlesworth to translate letters, forms, transcripts and other documents.
"I am amazed year after year at the professional service record of someone with a heavy teaching load," said Phillip Campana, foreign languages chairperson. "Year after year I search for new vocabulary to describe the outstanding work Ms. Shettlesworth does."
Shettlesworth is also well-known for giving her time and talents to professional organizations, especially in support of the state's secondary school teachers. She has devoted many years to the Tennessee Foreign Language Teaching Association and directs the state's American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese's National Spanish Examinations. She also serves as AATSP's secretary-treasurer.
"She is the only permanent officer of the organization, and it is to her Spanish teachers turn when they need help," said Campana.
Shettlesworth earned her master's and doctorate at Vanderbilt University. Vanderbilt's College of Arts and Sciences associate dean M. Francille Bergquist says when most people think of the profession of teaching Spanish in the state, they think of Shettlesworth and Tennessee Tech."She is one of those people to whom others turn knowing they will receive the advice and assistance of a true professional," Bergquist said.