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Educational innovation — and inspirational educators

One characteristic that many of this year’s Distinguished Teaching Award honorees share is a commitment to improving the learning process for students, both at the UW and at universities across the country. So, as alumni recall the UW education that they now use in their daily lives, they often have great teachers to thank.

Sandra Knisely '09, MA'13
June 10, 2014

As alumni recall the UW-Madison education that they now use in their lives and work, they often have great teachers to thank.

“Supporting high-quality teachers at the university is a crucial way to advance higher education in general,” says Paula Bonner MS’78, Wisconsin Alumni Association (WAA) president and CEO.

It’s why WAA represents alumni everywhere in being a part of recognizing the talents of 10 UW faculty members who were named recipients of this year’s Distinguished Teaching Awards, which have been given to top-notch UW teachers since 1953.

“Every day, these educators share their knowledge and expertise, provide challenges and opportunities, and, perhaps most importantly, inspire students and spark lifelong passions in ways we may never fully realize,” Bonner says.

Bonner joined UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank and the Office of the Secretary of the Faculty, which coordinates the award selection committee, to present the awards during a WAA-sponsored reception during the 2014 Teaching and Learning Symposium.

One characteristic that many of the award recipients share is a commitment to improving the learning process for undergraduate students, both at the UW and at universities across the country. For example, Professor of Engineering Physics Michael Plesha has written textbooks to help engineering instructors fundamentally rethink how they teach core subjects such as statics and dynamics.

Others, such as Stephen Gammie, a professor of zoology, and Sissel Schroeder, a professor of anthropology, have radically overhauled curricula for courses with large undergraduate enrollments and have found ways to make challenging subjects more accessible to students from a diverse range of backgrounds.

“Each of the 10 recipients has had a significant impact on the quality of education delivered at UW-Madison,” says Bonner. “They are educational innovators who have pushed the boundaries of the traditional classroom experience to be more interactive, dynamic, engaging and, ultimately, effective.”

Pictured above: Recipients of the 2014 Distinguished Teaching Awards include (from left): Front: Sigurd Angenent, professor of mathematics, Chancellor’s Award; Anja Wanner, professor of English, Chancellor’s Award; Sissel Schroeder, professor of anthropology, Chancellor’s Award; Chelcy Bowles, professor of music, Van Hise Outreach Teaching Award. Rear: Alta Charo, Warren P. Knowles professor of law, Chancellor’s Award; John Hall, assistant professor of history, William H. Kiekhofer Award; Chancellor Rebecca Blank; Karthikeyan Sankaralingam, associate professor of computer sciences, Emil H. Steiger Award; Laura Bartol, accepting for her father, Michael Plesha, professor of engineering physics, Chancellor’s Award; Stephen C. Gammie, professor of zoology, Chancellor’s Award. Not pictured: Michael Plesha; Douglas Weibel, associate professor of biochemistry, Class of 1955 Award.

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