Shirley Laird, professor of English, and Tom Timmerman, associate professor of Business Management, have been named the recipients of the Outstanding Faculty Awards in Teaching. Barbara Jackson has been awarded the Outstanding Faculty Award in Professional Service.
The three award winners will receive a cash prize and plaque during TTU's spring commencement ceremonies on May 6.
Before students can pull out their notebooks or laptops, Laird is likely to enter the classroom quoting from the day's assignment, entertaining and educating with her knowledge and talent.
Students with tales to tell are offered their own chances to perform for their classmates, who pose as Chaucer's pizza-eating pilgrims for the evening. Laird leads students in analyzing pilgrims' personality types, by encouraging them to think about what sort of vehicle the pilgrims might drive if they were students' contemporaries.
"One of my favorite activities of hers is a unique approach to character analysis of the Canterbury Tales pilgrims," said Sarah Seitzinger, a graduate student who received her bachelor's degree in English from TTU. "She is patient with students, personable, and seeks to bring her subject matter to life for her students."
Colleague and English Instructor Wanda Jared, a former student whose two sons also studied under Laird, says Shakespeare comes to life when Laird travels with students to the Alabama Shakespeare Festival each year or shows them a video performance.
"Many of them have never seen a stage performance before," said Jared. "She offers enrichment opportunities because she truly enjoys being with students and watching them learn."
Laird does not just stick with the tried and true. She recently added a new course based on J.R.R. Tolkien studies, which of course, say colleagues, makes her very popular with students who are Lord of the Rings fans.
"Her connection to our youth through film and other current media gives students a voice," said Jennifer Golz, a TTU English instructor. "It is not uncommon to pass her office and see her students actively engaged in conversation — her students love her."
Laird earned her bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Southern Mississippi and her doctorate from Auburn University. She joined the TTU faculty in 1973.
Timmerman's students often realize just how valuable his teaching is when they put what they learned into practice on internship assignments or full-time jobs.
"I use much of the information covered in class at my job with Averitt Express and continue to build on the knowledge base he laid for me in human resources management," said former student Sean Pendel.
Current student Will Finney agrees that the classroom experience prepared him for his internship.
"He does an excellent job of involving his students through a human resources simulation that gives us the opportunity to make decisions in a company and see the effects they have on the business," said Finney. "He prepared me very well for my real-world experience as the current intern in the H.R. department at Tutco."
Mark Farley, a TTU alumnus who studied under Timmerman for his undergraduate and graduate work, described why Timmerman's teaching method is so valuable.
"As students, we were challenged to support all of our business decisions with real-world, concrete data," said Farley. "We examined many current practices that business managers use that are completely contrary to the best methods available. We were also challenged to rethink the common knowledge approach to management."
In 2005, TTU's College of Business awarded Timmerman for "Excellence in Overall Performance." In 2004, he won TTU's Curtis Kinslow Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Tennessee Board of Regents Distance Education Committee Innovations Award.
Timmerman earned his bachelor's degree in psychology from Furman University and his doctorate in organizational behavior from Tulane University. He joined TTU's faculty in 2001.
Two years ago area school children began learning in earnest about the dangers of methamphetamines because Jackson listened to her son and realized she could use her special combination of knowledge and talent to be a force in meth education.
Her son came home from high school one day in 2002 and relayed information from a law enforcement officer about how deadly and addictive meth can be. She realized that if she, a biochemist, was unaware of the effects, the general public did not have the information either.
Since then, she has used her professional and personal background as a biochemist, a teacher and a screenwriter to educate the public about the dangers of meth, said Jeff Boles, interim chairperson of TTU's Chemistry Department.
She initiated and ran a Methamphetamine Awareness Competition for all the school children in Putnam County, which included a poster contest, essay contest and a dramatic/musical competition. In the TTU produced "Meth =Death" DVD, the posters and music from the competitions were included to help other schools set up similar awareness programs.
"This is a critical issue for the well-being of our region," said Scott Northrup, TTU chemistry professor. "Barbara has gone out of her way to serve the needs of our community."
She has contributed footage of the Tennessee legislative sessions on the passage of meth laws, which will be included in a documentary on meth, produced by the local documentary filmmaker, Todd Jarrell She has written and produced a 15-minute narrative short, Forgotten Son, which is believed to be the first non-documentary film dealing with meth addiction. In this film, the addiction is seen from a boy's point of view, whose mother is an addict. A DVD of the film will be given to all schools in Rep.Bart Gordon's district, and will be available to law enforcement agencies and other concerned citizens. The film will air locally on WCTE-TV in June.Jackson, who won TTU's Outstanding Faculty Award in Teaching in 1996, earned her bachelor's degree in biology with minors in chemistry and physics from Georgian Court College in New Jersey. She received her doctorate in biochemistry from Vanderbilt University, and joined TTU as a faculty member in 1978.