Teachers Receive Top Award for Hitting Mark with Students

Tita Parham

Wallace and Andrus

Professors Bill Wallace (left) and Dr. Tracy Andrus

Although he doesn't have a specific philosophy about teaching, Professor Bill Wallace says he does want to "listen carefully, to think about the kinds of challenges and opportunities that I am engaged in with students and to encourage them to see (and) realize their own potential."

He says most of his job is to provide opportunities, a little advice, and "then literally get out of the way."

It's a teaching method his students seem to appreciate. Several nominated him for the 2012-2013 Exemplary Teacher Award given by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry's Division of Higher Education.

Wallace is a professor and chair of the theatre arts and communication studies departments at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn.

He is one of 62 faculty members at United Methodist-related colleges and universities nominated and selected by their institutions to receive the award for exemplary teaching, service to students beyond the classroom and commitment to values-centered education.

Wallace teaches courses in stagecraft; scene, lighting, and makeup design; theatre for children; and methods of teaching theatre and dance. He also offers a study-abroad course titled "Theatre in Britain."

His students are mostly undergraduates.

"I am fortunate, working in the arts, to have students who come in the door already motivated and interested," he said.

What he enjoys most about teaching, Wallace said, is the moment when a student "gets it" and then takes off with a project, design or idea with "the self-confidence and courage to see it to completion."

"Once that happens, when the student sees how (to) solve problems, then all the rest is easy," he said.

Wallace says he was quite surprised to have won the award.

"I have some very generous students who nominated me for this award," he said. "Many, many of my colleagues here at Hamline are much more talented and deserving, so this award was an unexpected honor."

Not just a job

Dr. Tracy Andrus says he felt equally honored to receive the award.

"I was all smiles," he said of learning about the recognition. "I gave God a ‘fist bump' and thanked him . . . and many of the faculty members for the recommendation. Winning this award has reinvigorated my energy and commitment to strive to be the best teacher I can be."  

Andrus is an assistant professor and director of the Lee P. Brown Criminal Justice Institute at Wiley College in Marshall, Tex. He teaches four classes on criminal justice, mostly to younger undergraduates.

Andrus says he teaches because he loves it. "I do not consider teaching to be a job. To me, teaching is a hobby," he said. "I love to present my students with dilemmas and gather their thoughts about how they would resolve certain types of situations and conflicts in criminal justice."

That includes providing real-world experiences. Andrus says his department recently coordinated having a live trial on campus "with a real judge, real defendants, prosecutors," giving students a chance to see a bench trial from start to finish.

He says that kind of experiences, plus class debates and lectures from practitioners in the field, "make for great teaching."

"I love to see students learn," he said. "I love to see the excitement on their faces when they learn new knowledge. I have never attended a graduation ceremony in which I have not shed tears of joy for our students."

Gerald Lord, associate general secretary of GBHEM's Division of Higher Education, said the award aims to show GBHEM's support and appreciation for outstanding teachers.

"Quality teaching is a critical piece in educating young leaders for The United Methodist Church and the world.  We are proud of the talented faculty at our 119 UM-related educational institutions, and this award recognizes a few of those who are especially outstanding,"  Lord said.

Award recipients

In addition to support and appreciation for outstanding teaching, the Division of Higher Education provides a certificate and monetary award to the faculty members nominated and selected by their institutions to receive the award.

Recipients of the 2013 award are listed in the sidebar on the right.

* Tita Parham is a freelance writer, editor and communications consultant based in Apopka, Fla.

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