BSU's Shadle named Idaho's Professor of the Year

Posted at 12:44 PM, Nov 19, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-19 14:44:04-05

Boise State chemistry professor Susan Shadle has been named the 2015 Idaho Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

Shadle, who is director of the University’s Center for Teaching and Learning, is one of 35 state winners and four national winners who were honored Thursday in a reception in Washington, D.C. She is the 10th honoree from Boise State.

“I am delighted to see Professor Shadle receive this recognition,” said Martin Schimpf, Boise State provost and vice president for academic affairs. “She not only is an outstanding teacher-scholar herself, but a leader in the development of modern pedagogy and the promotion of faculty excellence in teaching, generally.”

Shadle’s classes often are cited as “favorites” among chemistry majors, due in large part to her efforts to engage students in active learning. While students admit her courses are not easy, they appreciate her efforts to ensure that all students learn important course concepts.

“As long as I have known her, Dr. Shadle has been dedicated to helping students reach their academic and professional aspirations,” wrote student and former teaching assistant Stephen Broyles. “No matter how busy she is, she always has time for students.”

To enhance learning in large-enrollment courses, Shadle places students in a classroom “neighborhood” of 25 students with an upper-division peer mentor. Within each neighborhood, students work in small teams on carefully crafted guided inquiry activities designed to get them to think about the world as a chemist, according to a BSU news release.

“To successfully implement this in a classroom with 220 students is a truly remarkable achievement,” wrote colleague Don Warner in a nomination letter. “Susan not only prepares the daily activities, but she also recruits, trains, and coordinates a small army of undergraduate teaching assistants who are needed to help facilitate the small group activities.”

Shadle is passionate about teaching and learning. While most of her students will not go on to become chemistry majors, she believes anyone can learn chemistry and she wants them all to leave her class with the necessary tools to consider the air they breathe, the furniture they sit on, and other ‘real life’ examples from the perspective of a chemist -– at the atomic and molecular levels, the news release said.

Shadle has taught at the university since 1996 and helped establish the Center for Teaching and Learning in 2006. The center supports, promotes and enhances teaching effectiveness while engaging students’ learning through a variety of teaching techniques. Shadle agreed to take the helm only after negotiating that she could continue teaching both general chemistry and selected upper division courses.

“I care about student success and I care about their learning,” she said. “It would feel awkward to me not to be on the ground myself. Teaching can be really hard, and if the work around effective teaching and learning is not grounded in reality, I could forget that.”

She said that the Center for Teaching and Learning has allowed her to expand her notion of which students are ‘her’ students, expanding the “puzzle and challenge of teaching and student learning” to a university-wide activity.

Shadle said the honor helps recognize the importance of teaching.

“We don’t often enough take time to talk about teaching at the university level,” she said. “You don’t need an award to stimulate that kind of dialogue, but an award helps us all see that teaching and learning are worth talking about.  Anything that creates an opening in which conversations about teaching and learning can happen is a good thing.”

Previous Boise State faculty who have received the Professor of the Year honor include: Heidi Reeder, communication, 2007; Alicia Garza, Spanish, 2003; Todd Shallat, history, 2002; John Freemuth, political science, 2001; Russell Centanni, biology, 2000; Pam Gehrke, nursing, 1999; Stephanie Witt, political science 1998; Greg Raymond, political science, 1994; and the late Tom Trusky, English, 1993, 1991, and 1990.