University honors 10 students with Martin Outstanding Teaching Awards

March 18, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State has honored 10 students with the 2015 Harold F. Martin Graduate Assistant Outstanding Teaching Awards.

The award recipients are Alphonso Grant, art education; Shahrzad “Sara” Jamshidi, mathematics; Jin-Kwang Kim, physiology; Kyle King, English; Andrew Linden, kinesiology; Jaclyn Maher, kinesiology; Matthew Moreau, pathobiology; Lauren Philbrook, human development and family studies; Devin Pohly, computer science and engineering; and John Price, American studies.

Grant is a “highly intelligent, personable and accomplished student” who produces results as a student and teacher, said one nominator. He has authored three published articles and has three more under review. One of his students said they felt “so fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from someone so intelligent, encouraging and accepting. Grant challenged me to let my voice be heard.”

Students praised Grant's availability for continued and personal discussion, and for posing alternative interpretations of their initial understandings of the materials.

For two semesters, Grant taught A ED 225: Diversity, Pedagogy and Visual Culture, which included about 30 students. He also assisted faculty in A ED 225, ART 001 and AED 201W. Working with the structure and focus established for the course, Grant was responsible for preparing the calendar and modifying the syllabus, selecting and preparing readings, designing activities for students, leading discussions, and assigning and grading assignments, journal entries, interviews, analyses of television commercials along with other work.

Grant said he teaches because it is his “duty to awaken the intellectual brilliance” within his students. “I teach because I know that a culturally diverse education has a tremendous impact on a student’s future,” he said. “The classroom provides me with the means to challenge, to empower and to liberate a positive transformation with my students’ minds.”

“[Jamshidi] is only a grad student, but it felt as though she had been in front of the classroom for many years. She clearly explained all the material and explained the reasons behind taking various steps.”

Jamshidi is already paving the road for future educators. She helped establish and is one the leaders of the University’s Graduate Teaching Assistant training program, which helps student-educators quickly learn common values and objectives necessary to educate at Penn State.

Jamshidi said her approach is to foster an environment where students are encouraged to explore and to make mistakes. “My students are not anonymous. They are treated as creative individuals with worthwhile ideas,” she said.

“She is only a grad student, but it felt as though she had been in front of the classroom for many years,” said a student. “She clearly explained all the material and explained the reasons behind taking various steps.”

Jamshidi taught MATH 251: Ordinary and Partial Differential Equations with 46 students; two courses of MATH 231: Calculus of Several Variables with 41 and 21 students, respectively, and MATH 041: Trigonometry and Analytical Geometry with 48 students.

Kim is praised for her innovative techniques of using analogies and demonstrations to enhance students’ understanding of new concepts by building on what they already know. Her passion and enthusiasm motivate students, a nominator said.

Kim said he encourages students to apply the science they’ve learned to real-life situations.  While teaching BIOL 142: Physiology Laboratory and B473: Mammalian Physiology, Kim's duties include pre-laboratory lectures, laboratory experiments and post-laboratory discussions. He has taught about 10 human physiology experiments including electroencephalography, electromyography, electrocardiogram and respiratory function tests. Kim has also taught and managed students performing exercise physiology experiments with human subjects as well as survival ovariectomy with rats.

Students say King is “an excellent instructor who makes an effort to help students inside and outside the classroom.” Another said “he really teaches you to think.”

King, who specializes in rhetoric and composition, has taught 14 classes for the English department, including two classes of ENGL 137: Rhetoric and Civil Life, each with 23 students; ENGL 138: Rhetoric and Civil Life II, with 21 students; and ENGL 15: Rhetoric and Composition, with 15 students.

King says he applies his coaching experiences to teaching. “I approach my teaching with the same presumption that the training of athletes and the training of students have similarities. After all, some of the ancient Greeks' rhetorical training took place in the same gymnasia where they learned to grapple and spar,” he said.

In four semesters of teaching, Linden “consistently researches new pedagogical strategies to engage his students, incorporates significant learning experiences in the classroom and structures assignments in ways that push his students to think critically, creatively and pragmatically. In turn, he pushes me to be a better teacher,” a nominator said.

“I approach my teaching with the same presumption that the training of athletes and the training of students have similarities. After all, some of the ancient Greeks' rhetorical training took place in the same gymnasia where they learned to grapple and spar.”

— Kyle King, 2015 Martin
Outstanding Teacher Award recipient

His lessons include implementing a “four-corners” debate on paying college athletes, designing an assignment asking students to interpret historical photos on campus and structuring review sessions as competitive and innovative games.

Each semester, Linden teaches three courses of Kinesiology 141: Socio-Cultural Dynamics of Kinesiology, with about 30 students per course. Teaching tasks include holding office hours, grading, planning and conducting recitations and responding to students' emails.

Maher believes teachers can transform the ways students approach learning. “By listening to students, working to make complex concepts relatable, and yet holding high standards, educators can inspire students to engage in the pursuit of knowledge and embrace critical thinking.”

Maher has served as a teaching assistant for KINES: 197A: Biophysical Basics of Kinesiology and KINES 321: Psychology of Movement Behavior, lecture classes of more than 200 students.  Her teaching duties include leading regular recitations or review sessions, holding office hours, developing quiz and exam questions, and providing feedback to students on course assignments.

Her research accomplishments include eight peer-reviewed publications and five more under review.

Moreau’s Student Rating of Teaching Effectiveness were the highest among his peers. One student said he was “always willing to help and very knowledgeable about the material.”

Moreau taught MICRO 107: Introduction to Microbiology Lab and MICRO 421W: Applied Microbiology Lab, each with about 40 students. His instructors noted he did this while assisting as a teaching assistant in several courses. A nominator described Moreau as quick to realize when his students struggled on a concept, and used his craft to clarify the material in general education science laboratory courses, which often have “tough audiences.”

Another nominator said Moreau “challenged his students with thought-provoking, critical-thinking questions during lectures to help students incorporate the newly learned material. In the lab, Moreau would frequently take new material and show by demonstration the protocol or technique the students were to learn that day.”

Conducting labs, creating, assigning and grading course materials, and developing trivia games and other activities were a few of Moreau's duties.

A nominator said Philbrook’s inviting teaching style allows students to actively engage in the learning process. She integrates review, assessment and activities in the course. Philbrook said the methods are part of a larger strategy to “prepare students for future life experiences and careers helping others.”

Philbrook taught two sessions of HDFS 229: Infant and Child Development and HDFS 312W: Empirical Inquiry in Human Development. In addition, Philbrook has been the teaching assistant “faculty frequently request,” said a nominator. “She is a talented teaching assistant who offers an ideal combination of compassion and academic rigor. She is highly skilled at reviewing course material with students while remaining empathetic with working with students who have missed classes. She is reliable, organized and thorough.”

In 2014, Pohly taught four sections of CMPSC 311, a systems programming course with about 75 students, and handled all duties of a course instructor, including preparing and delivering lectures, maintaining office hours and creating and grading all assignments and tests. He also acted as substitute lecturer for professors.

“The course was a tremendous success under Pohly’s leadership in part because of some of the innovations he brought,”  including weekly laptop sessions and projects that allowed for immediate feedback, a nominator said.

Pohly said his teaching strategy takes issue with a belief that you can only effectively reach about 80 percent of your students. “That eighty-first student is not where teachability ends but where the creative challenge begins.” Truly effective teachers, said Pohly, have the skill to reach the first 80 percent and the creativity to reach the other 20 percent.

A nominator called Price a “dynamic” instructor who coerces students into being active participants. A student said Price “forced the class to really step outside of themselves and think and look at culture differently. Outside of class, I found myself analyzing culture and looking for ways to incorporate that in our discussion.”

Price taught AM ST 105: Popular Culture and Folklife and COMM 100: Mass Media and Society, both high enrollment courses of about 50 students. A nominator said Price uses his “vast knowledge of American cultural history” to guide his instruction.

Price's innovative techniques include his use of collaborative groups that make presentations on their discovery of the material, multimedia presentations and the use of artifacts to be studied in the classroom.

Last Updated March 24, 2015