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Award from students is special for PSU faculty

March 07, 2014 10:45AM

Dr. Donald Baack, Dr. Cynthia Huffman and Dr. Darren Botello-Samson received the Outstanding Faculty Awards at PSU’s Apple Day Convocation.

Because it comes from students, Pittsburg State University’s Outstanding Faculty Award has special meaning for the 2014 honorees.

“The whole reason why I teach is because of the students, so having this award come from the students really means a lot to me,” said Cynthia Huffman, a professor of mathematics.

Huffman; Don Baack, a professor in the Department of Management and Marketing; and Darren Botello-Samson, an associate professor in the Department of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences, received the Outstanding Faculty Awards at PSU’s Apple Day Convocation on Thursday.

Baack, who recently was named the 2014 Distinguished Educator by the Southwest Academy of Management, said he sees the professor’s duties of teaching, research and service as inextricably linked.

“The three feed into each other,” Baack said. “So my writing instructs my teaching and my students instruct my writing and teaching. That connects with service, because you’re part of a larger community and you try to ensure that that community stays strong.”

Botello-Samson said he was a first-generation college student who was drawn to teaching because he saw education as a door to a wider world.

“I grew up in a very small rural town of 250 people in the Missouri Ozarks,” Botello-Samson said. “I loved the area that I was from, but at the same time wanted to see the world beyond that. One way to do that is through education. From day one, I sort of saw myself as being an educator.”

For Huffman, teaching was the family business.

“I come from a family of teachers,” Huffman said. “My mom was an elementary school teacher and my father (Wilmer Huffman) was an accounting professor at Pitt State. He actually received this same award. So that makes it even more special.”

All three of this year’s honorees said they get great satisfaction from seeing their students learn and grow.

“I find it rewarding when students understand. Not just understand the content of what you’re teaching, but understand what goes into the development of knowledge,” Botello-Samson said.

Huffman shared similar thoughts.

“My favorite part of teaching is when I’m explaining a really difficult concept to students and you can almost see the light bulbs go on over their heads,” she said. “We have such great students...Getting to see them graduate and have great careers is especially rewarding.”

Baack added that teaching is about relationships built on sincerity.

“I’ve always said the hardest thing about teaching is sincerity,” Baack said. “With students, once they realize that you genuinely care and that you are genuinely interested in what their lives are turning into, it turns into a pretty nice experience.”

He recalled the words of another educator, who told him 25 years ago, “Some of these students are going to remember you for the rest of their lives.”

“So, you pretty much want them to have a good memory of you,” Baack said with a smile.

©2014 Pittsburg State University