Each year NIU recognizes and honors outstanding undergraduate teaching. Tenured faculty members are honored with the Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award and full-time instructors are honored with the Excellence in Undergraduate Instruction Award. Undergraduate students take the lead in the nominating process and student advisory committees in each college nominate faculty members by assembling student comments, letters of recommendation and other evidence of effective teaching.
Allison Gladfelter, Beatrix Hoffman, Leonard Clapp and Theresa Annis are the recipients of these honors for the 2020-2021 academic year. They will be recognized for their achievement during the virtual faculty awards ceremony on Thursday, April 22.
These recipients were selected based on a number of factors including their ability to:
- inspire students’ interest in and appreciation of their academic field,
- respond flexibly to students’ learning needs through a variety of instructional strategies,
- address students’ needs beyond the classroom with commitment to their well-being,
- demonstrate a pattern of sustained teaching excellence, maintain current knowledge of their subject area and its pedagogical practices, and
- work actively within their program area to improve undergraduate education at an institutional level.
Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching
Allison Gladfelter, assistant professor of Speech-Language Pathology
Trying to find two words to describe Assistant Professor Allison Gladfelter from Speech-Language Pathology? Consider involved and invested.
When she is not teaching, mentoring and preparing students for graduate school, she is busy convening the Autism Caregivers group, advising the Communicative Disorders Student Association (COMDSA), leading research studies and advocating for diversity and inclusion.
“Dr. Gladfelter is committed to her students and goes far beyond teaching requirements. She teaches multiple independent study and honors capstone sections, giving students the opportunity to explore their interests,” says colleague Sydney Riebe. “She also holds multiple study sessions outside of class to make sure students who need additional help have ample resources to understand class content.”
Gladfelter’s students agree.
“Dr. Gladfelter is a professor who is truly dedicated to watching her students succeed. She is prompt to answer questions, gives ample opportunities for student success and makes learning engaging,” says Megan Nordstrom, a Communicative Disorders student. “She also challenges her students, which pushes them to learn and succeed further, even outside the classroom.”
Many of the students in Gladfelter’s courses are members of COMDSA and place great value on having the opportunity to interact with Gladfelter outside the classroom. With Gladfelter’s guidance, the student organization holds multiple events each year and has received NIU’s Outstanding Student Association award twice in the past five years.
“Every time we have a meeting, I learn so much from her,” said Gracie Strohm, a member of the COMDSA E-board. “Her professionalism is admirable, and I learn so much about how to be a better future speech pathologist with every encounter I have with her.”
In the field of speech-language pathology, developing and maintaining a mindset that embraces diversity and inclusion is an important value and one students learn from their interactions with Gladfelter, both inside and outside the classroom.
“Dr. Gladfelter integrates a lot of information about diversity and the parts of phonetics you can’t learn in a textbook,” says post-baccalaureate student Allison Bell. “She stressed the importance of approaching the subject with diversity in mind and to make sure we approach future clients in an open-minded and unbiased way. I appreciated her commitment to making sure that diversity and inclusion were presented thoroughly and that we had the opportunity to discuss diversity issues.”
Beatrix Hoffman, professor in the Department of History
Professor Beatrix Hoffman has a history of impacting the lives of Huskies—as an advocate and mentor.
Since 2016, Professor Hoffman has worked closely with Dream Action NIU to increase awareness of issues facing undocumented students on campus and advocating for the right to higher education. With her Department of History colleague, Associate Professor Kristin Huffine, she co-founded the organization Faculty Advocates for Undocumented Students, which engages in fundraising and outreach activities in support of students who lack equal access to financial aid.
She has served as a research mentor for Student Engagement Fund recipients, Research Rookies and the Summer Research Opportunity Program, working with several students outside the Department of History. Although many of these students were not history majors, Professor Hoffman worked with them to combine their own major and career interests with historical research.
Alumnus Ainsley Galvez credits Professor Hoffman with making her feel like a “legitimate historian,” despite being an Operations Management and Information Systems major in the College of Business.
After taking Professor Hoffman’s course, Latinos in the U.S., Galvez was presented with the opportunity to work with Hoffman on a research project supported by the Student Engagement Fund.
“From the beginning of the research project to my graduation, Professor Hoffman became an important mentor to me,” says Galvez. “She continues to be a very crucial part of my life after graduating in May 2020 because she helps me write my cover letters, find potential employment, and gives me career and education advice.”
Having mentored many Huskies, Professor Hoffman’s impact goes far beyond her classroom and the confines of campus. Her positive influence and guiding principles are instilled in Huskies entering a variety of professions.
“Professor Hoffman exemplifies what all educators should strive to be. As an activist, she makes sure that all voices are represented in her classroom as well as on campus,” says Ben Skipor, NIU alum and current teacher at Freeport High School. “I am lucky to have had such a good example and have used many of the practices she modeled in the college classroom in my classroom as a high school teacher.”
Leonard “Lenny” Clapp, professor in the Department of Philosophy
Professor Clapp is known as an enthusiastic teacher who is able to make philosophy interesting even to students who are not that interested in the topic.
“For many students, including philosophy majors, written works in philosophy can be very dense to read and difficult to understand, but Dr. Clapp makes challenging readings interesting and engaging with humor and energetic lectures,” says Jason Hanna, chair of the Department of Philosophy. “He instills an interest in his students for philosophy by making the course’s content relatable. He explains complex ideas with easy-to-understand examples while not oversimplifying the material.”
Hannah Ambler, a psychology major enrolled in Professor Clapp’s Philosophy 101 course can attest.
“His energy while lecturing is unmatched by any other professor I have had,” she says. “He taught the material and used real-life examples in such a way that always made it seem exciting, no matter what we were talking about.”
In Brooke Lavite’s case, Professor Clapp’s enthusiasm inspired the undergraduate philosophy major to challenge herself and prepared her for an unexpected but bright future.
“His passion for the subject made me want to learn more about contemporary issues in philosophy of language, so I asked for permission to take a graduate course he was going to teach on slurs and hate speech,” said the philosophy major.
“Before the class began, I was nervous about the rigor of taking a high-level course as an undergraduate, but Dr. Clapp reassured me that I was in a good position to do well,” Lavite said. “Dr. Clapp has made my undergraduate experience at NIU unforgettable. Although his courses were challenging, he made the material more understandable through his funny and inciteful lectures.”
“His teaching has changed my academic goals; before taking his courses, I thought that I would study literary criticism or linguistics, but his excitement in the classroom affected me. With his help, I am now applying to MA programs in philosophy, and I hope to learn more about philosophy of language.”
Excellence in Undergraduate Instruction
Theresa “Terry” Annis, instructor in the School of Nursing
Theresa ‘Terry’ Annis is used to providing top-quality care to patients; she has decades of experience as a professional nurse. In 2014, when she joined the Huskie community as an instructor in the School of Nursing, she brought this same level of care to students in her classroom.
One has to be caring to teach future nurses during a global pandemic; it’s no small task and Terry has risen to the challenge.
“She frames the caring for patients during the pandemic in a way that doesn’t scare nursing students away from nursing, but rather emphasizes safety and the important and heroic role of nursing during these times,” said David Dosier, director of operations for the School of Nursing. “While many nursing students are shaken by the prospect of working in a healthcare environment during a pandemic, Terry tries to help them re-frame their perspective into one that is inspiring and selfless.”
Terry herself is inspiring and selfless. In addition, she is regularly described by students as organized, enthusiastic, patient, and, most important, helpful.
Nursing student Megan Schmit views Annis as an instructor who is “constantly going out of her way to help others,” especially when she had to teach smaller groups of students due to social distancing guidance caused by the pandemic.
“Terry split us up into five separate rooms, each with a partner and danced her way into each and every room, not teaching once or twice, but five separate times,” said Schmit. “She was patient, answering all questions and going over material. She smiled through every repeated direction she had already said in the room prior and made me feel like my learning and retention of her material was crucial for my nursing development.”
“Her can-do attitude is infectious. She is highly valued by myself and my peers, who often leaned on her for assistance as well,” Schmit continues. “She deserves this award for her continuous effort and dedication to our learning experience here at Northern Illinois University.”