A student committee on the Plattsburgh State campus is working to close the existing gap between students and teachers with help from new members and projects that will improve classroom functionality.
The Student Committee on Teaching Excellence was created in 2008 by Center for Teaching Excellence Director Becky Kasper and former PSUC student Kevin Stump, but was discontinued in April 2011 due to lack of time and resources.
However, this is the first semester the committee is active again and is ready to provide innovative and creative ideas to help solidify the bond between teachers and students.
This semester, Michael Murphy, assistant director of the SCTE, has stepped in to restart the process of seeking opinions of students and faculty on how to improve both learning and teaching experiences on campus.
One way the committee has already reached out to teachers is by creating an award for Teacher of the Month this past September in order to recognize excellent teachers who not only use innovative teaching methods, but inspire students to get involved beyond the classroom.
A different academic-related question is posed online each month, and students get the opportunity to nominate teachers they believe are deserving.
Chuo-Hsuan (Jason) Lee was the recipient of October’s award, and with a smile on his face, said he felt “so honored” to be receiving a certificate for his excellence. Lee teaches accounting at PSUC and knows from personal experience that learning can be difficult but finds ways to ensure students are getting engaged and interested in learning about the material.
“I always ask myself: If I talk to somebody in high school, can they easily understand what I’m trying to convey?” Lee said.
This award is given to a teacher who care deeply about his or her students and goes beyond teaching the curriculum.
“We have to realize that students are the reason why we are here,” Lee said. “We are here to help them to grow as a person. It’s not only to learn knowledge, but to learn how to deal with setbacks.”
Lee is known for being “compassionate, understanding, empathetic and motivating,” according to an excerpt from a submission for his nomination. Students appreciate how Lee creates his own note slides to ensure he’s familiar with the material and can better explain to students how problems are solved.
To better understand where certain miscommunications stem from, the committee has scheduled a student-teacher forum Dec. 3 to give people a chance to explain what they believe is working in classrooms and what isn’t. Being that the committee has just started again this semester the first forum is expected to be a small-scale event with hopes to grow larger by next semester.
Three faculty members from three departments — history, education and academic advising — will take part in a discussion with students on how to improve issues such as student participation, methods of instructing or adjusting to the changing student body. The committee is actively seeking new ways to improve the communication between students and teachers.
One reason the gap between the two still exists is because some students view teachers as their superiors rather than their equals. Katherine Lorensen, an upper-level junior and member of the SCTE, has witnessed students who seem intimidated by teachers.
“I have freshmen in my courses who see the teacher as this entity above them and they’re just this little student,” Lorensen said. “It’s important to realize they’re just people and one’s not above the other.”
The SCTE is available as a resource for anyone on campus whether you’re a student who is struggling to learn certain course material or a professor who is having a hard time relating to students.
Janelle Burgos, a sophomore and member of the SCTE, believes the committee is important because it’s going to “help people relearn education.” Burgos wants students to realize there’s a difference between somebody talking to you and teaching you.
“It (the SCTE) helps students and teachers understand that it’s not just about putting information down,” Burgos said. “It’s about making learning a whole experience that everybody’s involved in.”
Next week, the committee will be giving students an opportunity to send teachers end-of-the-semester, hand-written thank you cards with a small item attached to show appreciation. Students can fill out cards at a table in the ACC over the next two weeks on Monday and Tuesday.
Murphy understands students have busy schedules, but taking the time to pause and write out a thank you card for a teacher who has inspired them in some way is worth some effort.
“We’re all so busy we can give students an excuse to slow down for a second and be grateful,” Murphy said.
Email Laura Schmidt at firstname.lastname@example.org