Teaching Excellence Awards

 Year Awarded: 2012

Faculty Award winner

Christopher Parkinson

 College of Sciences

 Biology

As a hyperactive, quickly bored child, I presented a sizable challenge to my teachers. Conventional teaching methods did not work with me, but if given a problem to solve, I spent many hours and tried many strategies in my attempts to figure it out. My reluctance to use conventional learning styles then became an asset: from childhood I could 'think outside the box,' primarily because I never saw 'the box' in the first place. While this approach led to some difficulties in more structured grade school and high school environments, it was accepted and indeed encouraged in college.

One of my trademarks is my respect for the students. By the second week of class, I know most students by name (even in my large lecture classes). We set high expectations for both them and me. I invite dialogue. In my class, students learn to expect questions, so they must be prepared. Students learn that asking 'why' is important. There are no stupid questions. My greatest accomplishment is providing a non-threatening, nurturing environment for my students to learn. Respect is a key reason for this success.

When students feel that you genuinely care about them and they see you giving your all to them, they do not want to disappoint you. There are days in lecture that I do not get through all of the planned material as I spend most of the period trying to answer a student's question several different ways. My thought is if one student has the question, several others do as well. I often wonder if they work so hard so as to not disappoint me or if I have lit a fire in them. It doesn't matter as long as the result is the same.

Finally, I love teaching. I prepare each lecture (even if I have taught the course before), and I try to leave a favorable impression on each student. I believe what makes me an excellent teacher is my ability to motivate students.