March 04, 2016 11:00AM
One of Pittsburg State University’s Dr. Robert K. Ratzlaff Outstanding Faculty Award recipients for 2016 has known he wanted to be a teacher since second grade, but the others discovered their passion for teaching later in life. The Outstanding Faculty Award recipients were announced at the university’s Apple Day celebration on March 3.
John Thompson, an assistant professor in the Department of Automotive Technology is the third generation of teachers in his family.
“It was on my list as long as I can remember,” Thompson said. “When I was in second grade and my teacher asked what I wanted to do when I grew up, I said ‘I want to be a teacher.’”
Clark Shaver, an associate professor of electronics engineering technology, came to teaching from the world of business.
“I never planned to teach,” said Shaver, who was also a Boy Scout leader. “I really enjoyed teaching the young men and I thought, if I could do something like this full-time, that would be awesome.”
Xiaolu Wu hadn’t planned on teaching, either. She came to the U.S. from China in 2001 to earn her Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Illinois in Chicago.
“After I got my degree, I realized I really enjoyed the interaction with people,” Wu said, “so I first found a job at a local community college. That experience reinforced what I felt about myself -- that what I should do is teaching.”
Although they came to the profession on different paths, they are all making a positive impact in the classroom and thoroughly enjoying teaching.
The Outstanding Faculty Award begins with nominations from students. The nominated faculty are asked to fill out a questionnaire and the recipients are chosen by a student panel. This year’s recipients agreed that because it is student-driven, the Outstanding Faculty Award has special meaning.
“I’m very honored and humbled,” Wu said. “I know that my students are very busy and nominating me is not something they need to do.”
Wu said she enjoys helping students discover their passion.
“I think everyone has a gift and if a teacher is able to help students find what they are passionate about, that’s a great thing,” Wu said.
All three said that one of the most rewarding things about their work is the relationships they are able to build with students, both during their academic careers and even later after they have graduated.
“I tell my students I’ll be Dr. Thompson or professor Thompson to you for a few years while you’re here, but the biggest benefit that I didn’t expect was the friendships for life (that I’ve maintained) with those students,” Thompson said. “It’s been the best thing in the world.”
Shaver said the feedback he gets from former students is special.
“What’s really been neat for me is the feedback I get from people who have graduated – the notes saying ‘thank you for what you’ve done.’ That’s really the gratifying thing about teaching,” Shaver said.
Thompson summed up all three of this year’s honorees’ thoughts about teaching.
“I get the incredible journey of teaching stuff that I love, that I’m super passionate about,” Thompson said. “I love it! And then I get to meet students. It’s just a great, great career and very rewarding.”