Aygen, Schmidt named Presidential Teaching Professors

Gulsat Aygen
Gulsat Aygen

What does teaching accomplish?

Jim Schmidt, chair of the NIU Department of History, strives for “true learning.”

“Having been in the classroom for more than 20 years, I have come to realize learning is not primarily dependent on what material I present or how I present it. Instead, it’s ab out creating an environment where maybe, just maybe, true learning can occur,” Schmidt says.

“Real learning means remembering – for the duration,” he adds. “True learning means epiphany – seeing something in a new way. That doesn’t happen very often, but when it does happen, it’s special, for it goes to heart of the liberal education and the university experience.”

Gulsat Aygen, a professor in the NIU Department of English, believes her role is to share the joy of learning with others and to motivate them “to be the best they can be.”

Learning, Aygen says, is not the memorization and internalization of facts but the rediscovery, re-creation and critical reconsideration of knowledge.

“Efficient classroom communication can only be created when educators foster collective learning communities, facilitating collaborative learning activities and communities,” Aygen says. “Participating as a fellow learner ensures a communicative environment in which anyone can feel free to contribute in the learning process.”

Aygen and Schmidt are NIU’s newest Presidential Teaching Professors.

The Presidential Teaching Professorship designation was established in 1991 to recognize outstanding teachers who have demonstrated that:

  • They instill and develop in students an intensity of interest in and an appreciation for the value of the subject.
  • They apply rigorous standards to student performance, inspire students to become the best and stimulate student growth.
  • They command respect and esteem as a teacher.
  • They demonstrate extraordinary commitment to students and their welfare.
  • They explore and develop effective instructional methods and technologies.
  • They work actively with students, faculty, and administrators to improve undergraduate and/or graduate education at NIU.
Jim Schmidt
Jim Schmidt

Each receives budgetary support and release time for the enhancement of his or her teaching skills. After four years as a Presidential Teaching Professor, each is designated a Distinguished Teaching Professor.

“When we talk about Student Career Success, so much of that depends on good teaching – on professors who challenge students not to simply master the material but to develop the critical thinking skills that endow a lifetime of learning,” NIU Provost Lisa Freeman says.

“Gulsat Aygen and Jim Schmidt are exceptional educators who fully embrace the notion that their role in the classroom involves more than spooling out facts,” Freeman adds. “I love what Jim says – that true learning means an epiphany, that true learning is seeing something in a new way. NIU is proud to reward and honor both Gulsat and Jim.”

Click on the names below to learn more about this year’s Presidential Teaching Professors:

Gulsat Aygen
Jim Schmidt

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