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Time to honor outstanding teachers

Dean Marvin Kaiser and the College of Liberal Arts and Science (CLAS) office will present the outstanding teaching awards at an end of the year reception and ceremony on Friday, June 7. The ceremony is from 3-5 p.m. in the Smith Memorial Center Browsing Lounge.

Faculty, staff and students who helped in the selection process are invited to attend the event.

This is the fifth year for the John Eliot Allen outstanding teaching awards.

“It has an overall effect, it increases morale,” said Scott Burns, professor of geology.

The purpose of the awards is to promote and reward excellence in teaching in CLAS.

“When I came to Portland State there were no teaching awards,” Burns said.

Burns went to the deans at that time and suggested having the awards. The responses he received were favorable, but there just were no funds for the awards.

Burns has gone out for the last five years and raised the money himself. Funding for the awards are generated from outside the university. He has elicited a total of $50,000. This year he raised $12,500 for the awards. The funds are for the cost of the event, plaques and cash prizes.

Burns said it was important to have the cash prize to prove the importance of the honor.

“Here’s an award and some money to back it up with,” Burns said.

The outstanding teachers are awarded $500 each, in addition to a plaque. Photos of the winners will be made into a permanent display in the dean’s office.

Spring term is the time for the selection and presentation of the awards, which are student selected.

“Students are the ones who always know the best teacher, not the faculty,” Burns said.

Fifteen students are chosen from each department based upon their GPA. If the department has no graduate students, the student committees are compromised of 80 percent seniors and 20 percent juniors. If the department does have graduate program the student committee should be approximately 50 percent undergraduate seniors and 50 percent graduate students.

A total of 298 students participated in the selection process.

During the selection process Burns always asks the students who are the top professors that they have had from departments outside their discipline. Burns compiles a list and sends a letter to each of those faculty members. While the teachers win no award, the purpose is to let them know that they are appreciated. This year the list consists of 100 teachers.

Once a faculty member receives an outstanding teaching award, they are not eligible to win for three years. Two years must past between the awards to be eligible.

This year the awards will be given out to humanities, social sciences, math/sciences and interdisciplinary studies. The demographics of the award recipients are as follows: seven professors, five associate professors, seven assistant professors, two instructors and one adjunct faculty member.

Shaun Huston from geography is the adjunct faculty member award recipient. This year marks the first year an adjunct faculty member has even won the honor of outstanding teacher.

This year is also the first year that couples have won the award. Last year Fountain and Padin’s wives won the awards.

Future goals are that each individual department will have their own award. The award could possibly be named in honor of an outstanding faculty member of the department.

The current award is named after John Eliot Allen. Allen founded the Portland State university geology program and contributed 40 years of his life to the program.

Award Recipients

Anthropology, Thomas Biolsi
Applied Linguistics, Brian Lynch
Biology, Robert Tinnin
Black Studies, Kofi Agorsah
Center for Science Education, Patrick Edwards
Chemistry, Gwen Shusterman*
Communication Studies, Darlene Gieger
Economics, John Hall
English, Deeanne Westbrook*
Environmental Sciences, Yandong Pan
Geography, Shaun Huston
German, Lou Elteto
German, Steven Fuller
History, Caroline Litzenberger
Mathematics, John Caughman
Philosophy, Sandra Shapsay
Physics, Peter Leung*
Psychology, Cynthia Mohr
Sociology, Jose Padin
Speech and Hearing Sciences, Mary Gordon-Brannan
Women’s Studies, Patti Duncan

* Indicates the second award that this person has received.