TTU rewards exemplary general education professors

Posted by Lori Shull - Friday, February 24 2012
lshull@tntech.edu

 

thumb Amber_TiceTennessee Tech University chemistry professor Janet Coonce and math professor Troy Brachey regularly inspire their students.

They take subjects that are difficult for non-majors and make them interesting for introductory-level students.

In recognition of their efforts and abilities, the university has awarded Coonce and Brachey the General Education Award for Outstanding Teaching.

Coonce joined the TTU faculty in 2008. She teaches three introductory chemistry classes. Instead of standing in front of the class lecturing, she works to relate to her students one-on-one, even in large classes.

Rather than writing on a board, she uses a tablet computer and projects her notes onto a larger screen, so she can maintain eye contact with the class. Because she knows many students learn better when they see something happen she includes experiments in her lectures.

“What I do is dynamic teaching,” Coonce said. “I have students answer questions, and I present many hands-on learning activities. I teach non-majors that chemistry is useful, and it isn’t boring.”

She also has nearly one million hits on a YouTube channel, TTUChem1010, where she creates videos to help explain concepts, including molecular geometry and the structure of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, among other things. She enlisted the help of one of her young daughters to sing the quadratic equation to help older students remember it.

thumb Troy_Brooke_WilsonBrachey also uses a tablet computer to project his notes, and those notes are often full of pictures of sea monsters or aliens. He talks a lot about “unleashing your inner Spock.”

“I think all students have the ability to do math at this level; what they usually lack is the discipline and the motivation,” Brachey said. “If you draw a picture of the problem, you can see it better and the pictures usually have aliens or sea monsters. It’s not adding to the academics, but it keeps them interested.”

Brachey’s students tend to hang around after class to chat and joke with each other and their professor. Many give him fist bumps on their way out, and talk about feeling at ease during class. According to Brachey, even the students who fail return the next semester to prove to him they can do the work.

“When I first started teaching, I was a lecturer,” he said. “But when you look out and see a sea of blank faces, something isn’t working. They’ve had 12 years of mind-numbing math, but math is exciting and interesting.”

Brachey came to TTU in 2008. He team-teaches three sections of pre-calculus in the Learning Common’s math zone at the Angelo and Jennette Volpe Library and one section of introduction to contemporary math.

Now in its second year, the General Education Award for Outstanding Teaching was created to recognize exemplary teaching in the 1000- and 2000-level courses that fulfill general education requirements in communications, history, humanities/fine arts, math, natural sciences and social/behavioral sciences. The selection committee includes faculty from each of these areas.

“This award recognizes the value and innovation being done in our introductory-level courses,” said Kurt Eisen, interim associate dean of TTU’s College of Arts and Sciences and chair of the general education committee. “The faculty who teach these courses lay the foundation for a successful college experience and, hopefully, foster an interest in lifelong learning.”