Teaching Excellence Awards

 Year Awarded: 2016

Faculty Award winner

Taylar Wenzel

 College of Education & Human Performance

 School of Teaching, Learning, & Leadership

Creating the most impactful learning experiences for my students is my primary responsibility and has long been my goal. I bring my experience, research, knowledge from the field, and passion to each and every class meeting and course experience. As educators, we talk a lot about best practice in our field. In their book, aptly named, Best Practice, Zemelman, Daniels, and Hyde (2012) identify characteristics of powerful instruction that our children in K-12 schools should be facing. As I strive to prepare the most qualified teacher candidates, I bring these characteristics to life through my instruction:

Student-Centered Our classrooms must focus on the needs of our students. My courses offer opportunities for students' needs to inform my instruction. As a facilitator in the classroom, my class meetings rely on student-driven discussion and collaboration. My students know how much I care about them and respect them as professionals.

Experiential Each of my courses offers opportunities for students to visit classrooms, work with children, and simulate teaching experiences during class meetings, beyond the standard requirements of the generic course syllabus. Research on teacher preparation programs suggests that increased opportunities in the field prior to internships positively impact the achievement of teacher candidate. I believe that this is one of the ways that I am most impactful in preparing my students to become effective, prepared teachers.

Authentic As often as possible, I integrate authentic student work samples, lesson experiences, and teaching artifacts into my instruction. Through my work in local schools, I am able to obtain student writing samples, unidentifiable student data sets, samples of classroom materials, and classroom video and photographs to share with my students. I am aware of how frequently mandates change in the field of education, and I believe it is crucial to provide authentic examples from schools as often as I can.

Democratic and Collaborative My classroom relies heavily on my students' interactions with their peers. As members of professional learning communities (PLCs), my students are expected to collaborate and engage in problem solving tasks with student data and curriculum at the forefront. I take the time to establish class and PLC norms at the beginning of each semester to create a classroom culture where respect and trust are evident and my students are willing to be vulnerable and take risks.

Rigorous and Challenging My students are aware of the high expectations that I hold for them. In addition to quality coursework, I strive to provide class experiences that include cognitive disequilibrium and promote deep learning. I highlight the many facets of my students' roles as professional educators both through the examples that I set and the opportunities that I create for them. My undergraduate students are encouraged to present and publish their work beyond our classroom walls and to strive for innovation in their work as educators.