Rewarding excellent teachers

2014-05-18T00:00:00Z Rewarding excellent teachers Arizona Daily Star
May 18, 2014 12:00 am

Thousands of University of Arizona students graduated this weekend, capping off hundreds of hours in classrooms, research labs and study — many of those spent with faculty members who are passionate about research and teaching.

The UA honors a handful of exemplary teachers each year with awards that have extra meaning because they’re nominated by peers and students. We add our congratulations.

Carol Schwalbe, associate professor and director of graduate studies at the UA School of Journalism, received the Leicester and Kathryn Sherrill Creative Teaching Award, which highlights teaching, particularly undergraduate education. It’s sponsored by the UA Foundation.

Schwalbe is known among journalism students for her hands-on approach, her attention to detail and demanding and engaging classes. “The way I look at teaching is to try to inspire students by lighting candles rather than dampening spirits,” she said. “That’s the message that underlies my teaching philosophy — encourage students to think in terms of possibilities.”

Patrick Baliani, a renowned playwright, is an assistant professor of interdisciplinary studies at the UA Honors College and received the only student-given teaching honor that’s awarded across the whole campus, the Margaret M. Briehl and Dennis T. Ray Five Star Faculty Award. He has received multiple teaching awards.

Bruce Bayly, a mathematics associate professor, was awarded the Henry and Phyllis Koffler Prize in Public Service/Outreach for his work with the Arizona Mathematics Road Show/The Physics Factory — a bus he drives around Tucson, and the country, to help show elementary and middle school kids that these fields of study take work but can also be fun.

Bayly, who spoke Thursday from a Boys and Girls Club in Chicago, said he and a mathematics graduate student have given about 30 presentations over the past eight weeks on the way to and from the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C. In all, they’ve reached about 5,000 students and adults on the trip.

“In a large number of communities kids have never had an exciting experience with math or science or making something, and a lot of the time we’re the first exciting experience that a youngster will have. And sometimes we’ll have grown-ups for whom this is the first exciting experience they’ll have,” Bayly said.

“We want to encourage youngsters at a crucial part of their lives,” he said. “Kids have really, really quick minds and amazing imaginations, and I like working with them. If you really want active stimulation and intellectual activity, working with kids is the way to get it.”

Anthropology associate professor Susan Shaw received the Graduate College Teaching and Mentoring Award in honor of excellence in her work with graduate students. Her photo will be added to the Graduate College’s “Wall of Fame.”

Shaw shares the award with sociology professor Robin Stryker, who is also an affiliated professor with the UA School of Government and Public Policy and the Rogers College of Law, and is research director for the National Institute for Civil Discourse. Stryker has created professional development courses to help graduate students make the transition from the classroom to the field.

“I would describe myself as a scholar-teacher; the two are inseparable,” she said. “There’s a synergy so that each are better because I’m doing both.”

Stryker said guiding students as they enter the profession is rewarding. “You can make the analog between parenting as in families and parenting as in helping to create a sound, ethical generation of future professionals. It’s an intellectual labor of love.”

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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