Each year the University gives the Teaching Excellence Award to one tenured, one untenured, and one adjunct/part-time faculty member. Past award winners and recent award nominees have generously agreed to share their statements of teaching philosophies and practices, which are presented here by the Teaching & Advisement Committee as part of our effort to promote thoughtful and engaged teaching at Adelphi.

Richard Belson (winner, tenured category, 2003-04, Social Work) excerpt:

“Some instructors feel driven to find interesting stories, articles, movies, technology. They are misguided. Students are here to learn, not to be entertained. They can listen to their iPods after class for entertainment. Some instructors use humor. I say students can watch the Comedy Channel for humor….”

Discusses four principles of “How To Be a Successful Failure as a College Teacher”

Sean Bentley (nominee, 2008-09, Physics) excerpt:

“…my tools are my chalk, my notes, and my mind, as I try to maintain a constant interaction with and feedback from the class, doing examples, asking and answering questions, and most importantly seeking if they are understanding the principles.”

Also discusses: technology & teaching

Robert Bornstein (nominee, 2008-09, Psychology) excerpt:

“I strive to reach students on an emotional as well as an intellectual level by deliberately presenting ideas and findings that contradict some of their longstanding assumptions.”

Also discusses: teaching graduate students, mentoring, integrating research and teaching, the importance of lifelong learning

Lucia Buttaro (nominee, untenured category, 2008-09, Education) excerpt:

“Since the vast majority of my students at Adelphi had a hard time believing [Jonathan] Kozol, I decided to take them to The South Bronx so they could see for themselves that there is inequality in education…. Although a few felt intimidated at first, it was a delight to see them excited about being in “The Bronx” and making connections between theory and practice.”

Elizabeth Cohn (winner, untenured category, 2008-09, Nursing) excerpt:

“Seven values inform my teaching: Respect, Participation, Mindfulness, Hope, Creativity, Shared Knowledge, and Connection. For each of these, I have developed teaching strategies that have earned consistently positive responses from students.”

Lawrence Hobbie (winner, tenured category, 2007-08, Biology) excerpt:

“My primary goals as a teacher are to challenge the students to think and engage with the subject and to give them the tools to approach science independently and with insight and analytical rigor. To achieve these goals, I commit myself whole-heartedly to my students, using a variety of tools and techniques to explain and to persuade them to work so they will understand and gain intellectual satisfaction for themselves.”

Discusses inquiry-based and active learning approaches used in teaching science.

Patrick Kelly (winner, tenured category, 2001-02, History) excerpt:

“I believe that the single most important quality to develop in students is the ability to think in a nuanced and critical way. In every course I teach, part of the first class is devoted to a discussion of the propaganda chapter in Hitler’s Mein Kampf, which makes the uncomfortable but true assertion that most people are seducible by simplistic slogans, endless repeated. I ask them rhetorically if they want to be among the sheep.”

Also discusses getting to know the students, being tough but consistent, accessibility, advising, teaching mastery of basic facts, and various examples of involving students in the classroom.

Esther Kogan (nominee, tenured category, 2008-09, Education) excerpt:

“My role is to provide students with an empowering and equitable education; with a curriculum that teaches for understanding and mastery of content and uses technology as a tool to enhance my teaching.”

Also discusses her multiple roles: teacher, planner, evaluator, professional, communicator, and facilitator.

Katie Laatikainen (winner, tenured category, 2005-06, Political Science) excerpt:

“At first, students are uncomfortable with the idea of competing worldview and theories. They want to know what is correct. With slow and patient work over the semester, students begin to see the strengths and weakness of each approach, … to understand the values that prompt judgements and to evaluate different claims about international relations for themselves. It is wonderful to observe this process unfold.”

Also discusses how she creates a dynamic classroom environment, encourages interdisciplinary learning, improves writing skills, and challenges students while helping them to succeed.

Jennifer Maloney (nominee, untenured category, 2008-09, Art) excerpt:

“The first step in the process of a studio art education is learning to see. One of the ways in which I instill this idea is by making my drawing students start each class with a series of five-minute drawings of the head. This practice gets the hand and the eye working together quickly.”

MaryJean McCarthy (winner, part-time/adjunct category, 2006-07, Education) excerpt:

“There are many elements integral to creating a stimulating student-centered inquiry-oriented environment. A certain amount of cacophony and messiness is inevitable, but in this lively environment kids are taking responsibility for their own learning and are actively engaged. To orchestrate purposeful learning requires careful preparation. Worthwhile discussions result from encouraging students’ inquisitiveness, asking probing questions and then listening carefully to students’ responses.”

Also discusses approaches to teaching science.

Ganesh Pandit (nominee, tenured category, 2008-09, Business) excerpt:

“I continuously evaluate my teaching methods and try to bring improvements in them based on my experience with every class of students. I always seek input from my students as to how I can make the subject matter more interesting in the future. However, I DO NOT compromise the quality of education delivered by me just to please the students.”

Also discusses connecting classroom learning to the real world, how he uses technology to enhance his teaching.

Sal Primeggia (winner, tenured category, 2003-04, Sociology) excerpt:

“I believe that teaching is an art – an art worth pursing and perfecting, because teachers can and do make a difference in their students’ lives!”

Also discusses: motivating students to learn, a variety of effective teaching approaches

Terrence Ross (winner, untenured category, 2007-08, Communications) excerpt:

“When confronted with a difficult class…, I found ways to pump up my energy and my passion, to literally blaze with interest for my discipline in front of my students….I discovered the more I gave out, the more I would get back.”

Also discusses: valuing the “ordinary” student, helping students understand media

Alan Schoenfeld (nominee, untenured category, 2008-09, Biology) excerpt:

“In designing assessment tools (notably exams, term papers and lab reports), I again attempt to challenge students to reach beyond the mere facts and to demonstrate critical thinking and a deeper understanding of the subject matter.”

Yula Serpanos (nominee, tenured category, 2008-09, Communication Sciences & Disorders) excerpt:

“My teaching philosophy is simple. I aim to know the material well, convey it in a clear and retainable manner, build an environment of respect in the classroom, and encourage an exchange of discussion.”

Devin Thornburg (nominee, tenured category, 2008-09, Education) excerpt:

“Students often understand the benefit of content or skills knowledge when they are integrated within a larger, meaningful project… These projects are typically developed over a series of weeks with different sections assigned over the semester that are submitted for my feedback.”

Also discusses how he models and implements a variety of “best practices” in teaching, including authentic projects, field experiences, and group learning.

Laraine Wallowitz (winner, untenured category, 2006-07, Education) excerpt:

“…my courses are organized around essential questions – thought-provoking, open-ended, universal queries constructed to promote critical inquiry and allow for a multitude of perspectives.”

Susan Weisser (nominee, tenured category, 2008-09, English) excerpt:

“I strongly believe that students’ minds are enriched when their fundamental premises and habits are tested and questioned, so that every intellectual encounter has the potential to be disturbing in the best possible sense. I very much enjoy playing devil’s advocate, provoking thought and reactions from students.”

Also discusses teaching seminar classes, using technology, and promoting interdisciplinary teaching.

Cristina Zaccarini (winner, untenured category, 2003-04, History) excerpt:

“…Keeping the channels of communication with students open allows me to answer questions and address concerns as immediately as they arise for students…This close interaction allows me to maintain a constant awareness of which instructional strategies work best.”

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