Teaching Excellence Awards

 Year Awarded: 2013

Faculty Award winner

Karen Verkler

 College of Education

 School of Teaching, Learning, and Leadership

I have been an educator in several disciplines. However, it is my opinion that content area instruction is of secondary importance. Of utmost importance is the establishment of a caring, positive learning environment in which students are encouraged to believe in themselves and to demonstrate self-respect and respect for others. In addition, I adamantly espouse the view that learning can and should be fun. To this end, I strive to create a positive, stress-free learning environment. One of my first activities each semester is an icebreaker that allows students and teacher to become familiar with everyone's name, background, and personality. I encourage them to celebrate the unique individuals they are. I am a firm believer in being oneself and believing in oneself.

I seek to develop self-respect and respect for others in my students. I actively encourage my students to express their opinions with consideration for others' feelings. Exhibiting compassion, taking an interest in student concerns, and being available are demonstrative of respect. Students often comment favorably on my approachability and accessibility to them.

Although knowledge of educational philosophy and pedagogy is certainly relevant in teacher education, it is useless without practical application. With this in mind, my curriculum is replete with hands-on activities. Students have applauded this facet of my curriculum. Always cognizant of the teacher's role in modeling what is taught, I meticulously explain strategies and the rationale behind their employment. Even seemingly routine procedures, such as the timely return of papers, are discussed regarding their significance in classroom management.

A fervent proponent of lifelong learning, I am passionate about the need to provide professional-development experiences for our teacher candidates. I challenge my students to seek opportunities to better themselves personally and professionally. My desire to bring out the potential in our educators led me to create the UCF College of Education HAPPY Hour, a professional learning program for our teacher candidates. HAPPY Hour events allow students to participate in mentoring experiences and interactive instruction. Through HAPPY Hour workshops and a HAPPY Hour Student Showcase that highlights our teacher candidates as the presenters, students are given numerous opportunities for personal and professional growth.