Published: Thu Dec 9, 2010Tennessee Tech University adjunct instructor Kristin Hauser and faculty member Paula K. Hinton are recipients of the newly created 2010-11 General Education Award for Outstanding Teaching.
The award recognizes outstanding teaching in general education courses, the 1000- and 2000-level courses that fulfill general education requirements in communication, history, humanities/fine arts, math, natural sciences and social/behavioral sciences. The selection committee included faculty from each of these areas.
All full-time and part-time faculty members, instructors and graduate teaching assistants who have taught general education courses at TTU for at least the past two full semesters are eligible for the awards. Each recipient receives a $1,000 cash prize.
"This award showcases the valuable and innovative work being done in courses that our students usually take in their first semesters at Tech," said Kurt Eisen, interim associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and chairperson of the General Education Committee. "These are the courses and faculty who lay the foundation of a successful college experience, and, we hope, create a lasting interest in learning."
Hauser, a part-time adjunct instructor of music appreciation at TTU, holds a master of music in woodwind performance from the University of Georgia and a bachelor of music education from Ohio State University.
Hinton, associate professor of history at TTU, holds a doctorate from Miami University. She has taught history courses at TTU since 2001 and already holds a number of university awards, including the 2008 Outstanding Honors Faculty Member Award and the 2007 Outstanding Faculty Award for Professional Service. She currently serves as faculty head of The Service Station, one of TTU's new learning villages launched in the Fall semester.
> Hauser considers her teaching effort successful when students are able to relate musical ideas and concepts to their own lives. In doing so, they develop a broader appreciation of society and the world around them, which is a major goal of general education courses.
She has been an instructor of three sections of music appreciation each semester since 2001. A total of 384 students are enrolled in the sections each year.
"One of the most satisfying experiences that I have had in teaching this type of course is when a student comes to my class with a feeling of intimidation about music and I can turn that around," Hauser said.
One such student came to class initially with her notes in a black notebook, the color an expression of her feelings for the subject matter. By the end of the course, the student had transferred her notes to a primary-colored notebook.
"She began attending numerous concerts, got her family involved in listening to music at home and purchased classical CDs," Hauser said. "It's moments like this that make me realize how general education courses can really make a difference in the lives of our students."
Arthur LaBar, chairman of the music and art department, said Hauser's dedication to her students is clearly demonstrated in the end-of-course surveys students submit.
"A common written comment on her evaluations goes something like, 'I didn't expect to enjoy this class, but now I plan to attend more concerts!' Exposing young students to the pleasures of concert-going is one of the primary objectives of the class."
Students say they appreciate Hauser's dedication in the classroom and willingness to answer questions afterward.
"I am a biology major and never knew Mrs. Hauser until my requirement to take music appreciation. I feel that she deserves praise because she exhibits expertise in her profession, encourages excellence in the classroom, and provides teaching support through the use of new ideas and resources," said student Ramone Bachour.
Hauser doesn't take short cuts in her teaching methods. Myriad music appreciation texts provide prepared outlines, examples, even test questions. She doesn't use them.
"Hauser carefully designs each lecture and class exercise, choosing thoughtfully each musical example, including interesting facts and information not presented in the book, and challenging students to relate musical ideas to the world around them," said Michael E. Clark, an assistant professor of music and art and associate director of the Honors Program.
Paula K. Hinton
> Hinton's teaching approach has its roots in an unfortunate experience she witnessed several years ago as a teaching assistant for a professor who was lecturing about the Russian Revolution.
"He said 'and then Rasputin died...' I was dismayed. Rasputin did NOT just die — they poisoned him, stabbed him, shot him, etc. They spent an evening trying to kill him. In the room sat 500 students, most of whom were reading newspapers, talking to the student next to him/her — doing everything but paying attention," Hinton said.
"I made a mental note to never lecture in that manner. I think it has made me a better teacher," she said. "I'll never forget the story of Rasputin, and most importantly, the significance of it."
Hinton's experience is paying dividends now for students of her history courses at TTU.
Summer M. Olmstead, now a master's student in computer science, said Hinton's enthusiastic approach to teaching promoted her to take upper-division level history courses for enjoyment.
"As an undergraduate student and having an indifferent opinion of history courses, I found myself surprisingly mesmerized by a professor at Tennessee Tech University in the spring of 2007. Dr. Paula Hinton captured my imagination in a survey American history course and transformed my indifference into a strong interest," Olmstead said.
Former student Heather L. Miller said Hinton changed the trajectory of her life, and Miller is now pursing graduate studies in history.
"She has a way of making the various plights of people in history seem surprisingly real to you. As a student, you feel as if you are a fellow time-traveler, journeying with her through time to understand the meaning behind historical people and events," Miller said.
Jeffery J. Roberts, chair of the history department, said Hinton's student evaluations consistently rank near the top in the department.
"Her courses are cutting-edge both in terms of their topics and their presentation. Her employment of journal assignments deserves special mention. Journaling is routinely cited in retention literature as an effective means of reaching out to different learning types," Roberts said.