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First-Year Courses Outstanding Instructor Awards - Fall 2019

“If just one person knows a student’s name, the evidence shows that student’s chances of staying in college increases dramatically,” said Starr Wentzel, Director of the Office of First-Year Courses and Learning Communities at its annual Outstanding Instructor Awards ceremony.

The event, held each spring in the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning, honors first-year seminar instructors nominated by students for excellence in teaching.

“Often, first-semester students realize they need someone, a mentor to guide them or just someone in their corner that they can turn to with questions about anything from declaring a major to dealing with a messy roommate. Student Success Seminar instructors develop special relationships with their students. They are an integral part of process of growth and transformation that eventually leads students to graduation,” Wentzel continued.

The event honors instructors from a variety of categories, including those who teach the GSD 101 Foundations of Learning Course, College-Specific Seminars, and Special Populations. Winners in each category are awarded the coveted "Apple Award" by a committee comprised of students, faculty, and staff. A special honor, the Distinguished Outstanding Instructor "Golden Apple" award, is bestowed upon the one instructor who stands out to the committee among nominees from all categories.

Dr. Tanlee Wasson, EKU’s new Vice President for Student Success and Institutional Effectiveness, keynoted the event. As a first-generation student from Eastern Kentucky, Dr. Wasson has witnessed the benefits of supportive faculty and staff members first-hand.

“The impact first-year seminar instructors have on retaining students and making EKU feel like home is immeasurable.”

Nominees in the first category included six instructors who taught the Foundations of Learning course: Deanna Johnson, Bryan Makinen, Travis Martin, Patti Matthews, Aaron Raider, and Matt Schumacher.

Matt SchumacherMatt Schumacher, the winner in this category, received multiple nominations. One student said, “He really goes above and beyond to make sure his students are getting involved and having the best first year possible at EKU. He gets to know his students by asking about our days, how our outside activities are going, and about our overall experience as first year students. He is the type of teacher that you feel comfortable to go to if there is ever a serious issue. He will always guide you in the right direction or to the right people.”

“He is a wonderful person and goes beyond the teacher role. He doesn’t just teach the content, he cares about us on a personal level,” said another.

Five instructors were nominated in the category of Special Populations: Ashton Chaffins, Stephen Fohl, Gene Kleppinger, Katie Patton, and Sandra Stephens. 

Katie PattonKatie Patton was the winner selected in this category. One of her students said, “She was engaging, fun, and relatable. In other words, the best kind of instructor you could have.  She was always available to help with questions, concerns, or just to have a simple conversation. She almost always had the answers, and if not, she would find them.  During our class she constantly made sure that if anyone was confused, they knew they could ask for help. She was especially helpful for registration. I honestly would have been completely lost in DegreeWorks if it wasn't for her.  She is fantastic.” 

There were a total of 12 nominees among the College-Specific Student Success Seminar instructors. Dan Royalty, Melissa Vandenburg, Autumn Whitson, Tyler Caviness, James Dantic, Clara Parrish, Julie Duckart, Michael Land, Sarah Adams, Jerome May, Jennifer Miller, and Sabrina Moore.

Jerome MayJerome May won this category with multiple nominations. One student said, “He is serious about education and willing to help. He is just a good teacher. He actually cares whether or not we understand the material. He was super understanding and willing to take extra time to answer anyone's questions.”

“He is very easy to talk to and helps out with any information needed. He is someone who makes time for his students and will work with you. He helps all of his students succeed and feel welcomed on campus,” said another.

Finally, it was time to award the Golden Apple to the Fall 2019 Distinguished Outstanding Instructor. “It should be our goal to show our students that they have at least one person they can turn to at any point during their stay at EKU. They should know that there is someone they can go to for assistance with student problems, but also that there is someone who genuinely wants to see them go from sitting in a first-year seminar to walking across the graduation stage,” said Wentzel before presenting the award.

Clara ParrishClara Parrish won with a total of four nominations. Here’s what some of her students had to say:

“She did everything in her power to ensure I was doing well and succeeding. I know if there is ever a time when I need someone, I can count on her. She made me feel like I belong at EKU and reminded me that I would be okay and to just keep pushing through.”

“She went above and beyond to make sure that every student in her class had an amazing freshman experience. She was invested in her students learning, and she wanted each and every one of us to succeed. You could tell that she cared about her students, and she made an effort to know each one of us. The way that the assignments were laid out were perfect to help a college freshman adjust from high school to college.”

“I came into class and I had my head down because I wasn't feeling good. She told me to go to student health services—which I didn't know was a thing until she told me—and it turned out I had Mono. She emailed me every day to make sure I was okay. She genuinely cares about her students.”

“She really bonds with her students and gets to know them. She finds out what makes them who they are and she uses that to motivate and inspire. She is an amazing woman and without her I don't think I would have stayed at EKU.  If I could have her for every class I would!”

Wentzel concluded the event by thanking all of the supervisors who allow instructors to take time away from their full-time positions to teach first-year seminars.

“It takes a village!”

Fall 2019 FYC Outstanding Instructor Awards - All Winners and Nominees

Published on March 01, 2020

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