Bradley Clymer, Hasan Kwame Jeffries and Ric Simmons.
With thousands of faculty members at Ohio State, one winner said being recognized as one of the nine professors to receive the 2012 Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching is like winning the lottery.
“I didn’t give it much thought because it’s kind of like hitting the lotto,” said Hasan Kwame Jeffries, associate professor in history. “There’s so many good faculty members and good teachers that you never think you could be recognized in that way.”
Jeffries, electrical and computer engineering associate professor Bradley Clymer, English professor David Herman, Earth science professor Mark A. Kleffner, music associate professor Robin Rice, human development and family science associate professor Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, law professor Ric Simmons, computer science and engineering associate professor Paul Sivilotti and nursing associate professor Deborah K. Steward, are this year’s recipients.
The award recognizes superior teachers who are nominated by present and former students and colleagues. A committee of alumni, students and faculty choose the winners. Each professor will receive a cash award of $3,000, made possible by contributions from the Alumni Association, donors and the Office of Academic Affairs, according to Ohio State’s website. Additionally, their base salaries will increase by $1,200 from the Office of Academic Affairs.
Nomination letters recognized Jeffries as an inspirational teacher who encourages students to think differently about history. Nominators illustrated the passion and commitment that he brings to the classroom. Jeffries said the feedback he has received in the letters confirms that his material sinks in and his effort is appreciated. To him, the award means that he is on the right track in the department and classroom.
“You don’t teach for recognition,” Jeffries said. “I do it because I love it and I try to really convey the point to make this history come alive and get people thinking differently about how they view the world and about America itself and African-American history in particular.”
At the end of each course, each college at OSU encourages students to evaluate their professor. Simmons said he reads the feedback of each student for constructive criticism and suggestions on how to improve teaching styles.
He said some of the submissions were used by Moritz College of Law faculty when they drafted their nomination letter.
“The most important job I have is teaching,” Simmons said. “I work very hard every year to try to become better at teaching and to try to make sure students are essentially getting their money’s worth when they are sitting in the classroom or when they are coming to talk to me after class.”
Simmons said it was gratifying that the award recognized the most important part of his job. He said he sometimes does not see the immediate effects of being a teacher.
“You go in and you give a lecture, you run a discussion and then it’s not always clear if the students have gotten anything from it or if they learned something right away,” Simmons said. “But to know that the students have been impacted and have appreciated what you’ve been doing, I think is something that I’m thankful to know has happened.”
The university made Simmons feel like receiving the award was a major accomplishment. He credits the university for valuing teaching enough to make him and the eight other winners feel special. The award was significant enough that he calls it his greatest honor.
“I’ve won teaching awards from the law school before which obviously mean a lot, but for the university to have so many great teachers and so many faculty members overall, to win this award on a university wide (scale) really is the greatest honor I could have,” Simmons said.
Clymer said the recognition on this level is humbling. He said he is grateful for the validation of the effort he has put in over the last 25 years.
“It’s always important to get recognition from the people you are working with and from the people you are working for,” Clymer said. “It’s nice to hear good things about what you’re doing – it gives you reasons to keep going.”