Published: Fri May 8, 2009
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. (May 2, 2009) – Students and colleagues of Tennessee Tech University’s 2009 Outstanding Faculty Awards say the three are the tightrope walkers of their fields, displaying incredible balance in their teaching, research and service.
Shannon Collins and Susan Gore, both assistant professors of curriculum and instruction, have been named recipients of the Outstanding Faculty Awards in Teaching. Jessica O. Matson, professor of industrial and systems engineering, has been awarded the Outstanding Faculty Award in Professional Service.
The three award winners will receive cash prizes and plaques during TTU’s spring commencement ceremonies on May 9.
As an instructor of literacy and a principle investigator of the Upper Cumberland Writing Project, a professional development program for teachers of all grades and subjects, Collins is committed to improving literacy and elementary education throughout the state, said Matthew R. Smith, interim chairperson of curriculum and instruction.
“He is a dynamic educator, and he always goes above and beyond the call of duty to ensure the success of students,” Smith continued.
In addition to maintaining a rigorous research agenda and participating in numerous professional development seminars, Collins is actively engaged in service and outreach initiatives that include several university committees, the Cookeville Rotary Club, Wesley Arena Theater and volunteer work for the Jackson and Putnam County school districts.
Rénard Harris, an assistant professor at the College of Charleston and former classmate with Collins, said the TTU instructor’s work with the National Writing Project has “not only contributed to the number of successful research and scholarship programs at Tennessee Tech University, but also it has contributed to the local community.”
In fact, community is the word that best describes Collins’ instructional style, said Sandy H. Smith, director of teacher education at TTU.
“As an instructor, Shannon is an active listener and consistently supports his students in ways that build their confidence and self-esteem. He always begins dialogue with positive comments and humor,” she said. “Students are comfortable and easily move into the content of his courses with highly motivated attitudes.”
Emily Lovin, fourth-grade teacher at Bowers Elementary School in Harriman and a former student of Collins, said the TTU curriculum and instruction assistant professor “is and will always be the outstanding factor in my educational career, as I am sure he has been for many others.”
Mia Evans, another former student who is now an English as a second language teacher, describes Collins as a professor who views his students as future teachers.
Martha Ramsey, an educator in the Putnam County school system and participant in the Upper Cumberland Writing Project’s first summer institute, said she knew she would return to the classroom as a better teacher because of Collins’ instruction. “Dr. Collins is responsible for my growth as a professional, and the true benefactors of my growth are the students I serve,” she said.
As an instructor of science and math methods courses for TTU’s undergraduate teacher education candidates, Gore is a positive role model for students, said Margaret Phelps, professor of curriculum and instruction at TTU and director of the Oakley STEM Center.
Phelps said she first met her when Gore was a middle school teacher enrolled in TTU’s master’s program. “From the questions she asked and the work that she did, it was evident that she was highly competent in her content, using a variety of effective teaching practices, and was concerned for the academic and personal wellbeing of all her students,” Phelps said. “Those qualities have continued forward and grown as she has assumed the role and duties of a TTU faculty member.”
As principle investigator of the Upper Cumberland Middle Grades Science Partnership, a state funded grant worth approximately $1 million that facilitates improvements in science education among TTU students, school administrators and professional educators, Gore is committed to improving science and mathematics education throughout the state, said Matthew R. Smith.
With a primary focus on the advancement of education for all students and a philosophy that reflects a balance between theory and practice, Gore is a model to her students, said Sandy H. Smith.
“She models this in her own professional pursuits that include constant professional growth while always searching for how information gained can be translated into best practice that will result in student learning,” Smith said.
Gore’s colleague Jeremy Wendt said, “Her hands-on approach to learning is something that is very effective, and students are always very enthusiastic when presented with the exceptional learning opportunities.”
Graduate assistant Casey Hunt agreed. “Dr. Gore is an amazing professor who daily encourages her students to be the best teachers they can be. She is a perfect example of what an effective teacher is, and she cares tremendously for her students to exceed in her classroom.”
Jessica O. Matson
As the recipient of this year’s Outstanding Faculty Award in Professional Service, Matson has made significant contributions to the industrial engineering professional community at the university and at regional and national levels, said Michael S. Leonard, interim dean of Mercer University’s School of Engineering.
She has made significant contributions to the national engineering professional community through her contributions to the American Society for Engineering Education, where she has held various offices including secretary/treasurer, newsletter editor, program chair, awards chair and division chair.
Her contributions to the engineering community on campus and in Cookeville and the surrounding region include serving as a volunteer referee for the First Lego League’s Tennessee State Tournament since 2001 and as a head referee since 2002. She has also served as an activity session leader and session developer for TTU’s Engineering A Future, an engineering workshop for middle school girls.
Alison M. Knight, a former student who is now a simulation analyst at TranSystems Automation Associates Inc., said Matson’s unique talent is “to interweave her service with mentoring.” That quality, Knight continued, is “unmatched by any other professor. She finds the talent and passion in her students and then strategically provides opportunities for service to the profession.
“Because she gives selflessly of her time, she is a role model for those around her,” Knight said. “She leads by example in service to others. For me, she has been my professor, my mentor, and my role model as not only an industrial engineer but as a professional member of a community.”
Jane C. Ammons, associate dean of engineering at Georgia Tech, said, “I can speak with authority that her leadership and service contributions to the Institute of Industrial Engineers has been sustained, significant and appreciated. In 2007, the Institute of Industrial Engineers recognized Dr. Matson with the Fred C. Crane Award for Distinguished Service.
“I was fortunate to hear Dr. Matson last summer in Ankara, Turkey, where she was invited to speak at an international conference sponsored by the National Science Foundation and Turkish universities,” Ammons continued. “Dr. Matson is an impressive ambassador for our field and for Tennessee Tech University.”