Teaching is an art that requires patience, skill and, oftentimes, a good dose of creativity. To recognize those who excel in this artistry, the Johns Hopkins Alumni Association since 1992 has sponsored the Excellence in Teaching Awards so that each academic division of the university might publicly recognize the critical importance of teaching.
Each year the Alumni Council provides funds to each school--this year the amount was $2,000--that can be given to one winner, shared by up to four or attached to another, divisional teaching award. The nomination and selection process differs by school, but students must be involved in the selection process.
SCHOOL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Physics is a state of mind, and Alumni Excellence in Teaching Award winner Daniel Reich is determined to help his students learn how to get there.
"The challenging part is getting the concepts into the students' blood," says Reich, a professor of physics and astronomy. "Much of being able to do physics requires skill in mathematics, but at the same time, the students have to learn physical intuition. They have to have a sense of how to think about a problem."
Reich, a researcher in condensed matter physics who came to Hopkins in 1991, has recently been teaching introductory courses for physics majors. This year he taught two sophomore-level classes: Special Relativity and Waves, and Modern Physics.
"They're a committed set of students who are excited and work hard," Reich says. "When you push them, they respond. So in that sense, it's easy."
Many of the students who nominated Reich for the award, though, focused on how hard he works to make the material accessible, stimulating and relevant.
"One of the tricks he gave us we found so crazy that it was dubbed the Reich Maneuver," wrote Valerie Mikles. "It worked in that instance, though, and has continued to serve us in other problems."
Reich's students were also amazed at his willingness to provide help whenever they needed it.
"When I knock on his door and ask him if he has a minute, he will usually consult his watch and say, 'I have 10,' " Mikles wrote. "But he won't hesitate to take half an hour to make sure I understand the material. I have never left his office with a question."
SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING
James V. Cox
When James V. Cox arrived at Hopkins in 1994 as an assistant professor of civil engineering, he had virtually no experience as a teacher. He earned his doctorate at the University of California, Davis, while working as a research structural engineer at the Naval Civil Engineering Laboratory.
Yet instructional skills must have come naturally because Cox just picked up his second teaching award in two years. "I've never claimed to be a great teacher," he says modestly. "I've been learning on the job."
Cox, who teaches Theory of Structures to undergraduates, has been praised by students for his willingness to meet with them throughout the school week, and Saturdays as well, and for his use of physical examples to help them visualize the meaning of his equations.
Cox uses computer models to study the performance of fiber-reinforced polymer materials that strengthen concrete in place of steel bars. But he tries to make sure his students don't get lost in the mathematics of this field. "One of my emphases, even at the undergraduate level, is to make them think about the underlying theory and not just fall into the 'plug and chug' mode, where they just put numbers into equations without thinking about the theory upon which the equations are based," he says.
Although he provides a lot of personal attention to his students, Cox insists that he's not an easy touch when it comes to handing out grades. "Usually, I don't give a lot of A's," he says. "Those are supposed to be for excellence, so I don't give them too freely."
SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH
Leon Gordis, professor of epidemiology and pediatrics in the School of Medicine, has taught Introductory Epidemiology at the School of Public Health for 26 years and in the School of Medicine for almost as many. He estimates that in that time he has shown about 10,000 public health and medical students how researchers track the incidence and prevalence of diseases and investigate the causes of diseases and the basis for their prevention. The startling thing about Gordis' career is that even after a quarter of a century, his lectures have lost none of their verve: This year his students in the School of Public Health bestowed on him a fifth Golden Apple Award, for best teacher of a class with over 30 students.
Back in 1975, when Gordis began teaching introductory epidemiology, he and his colleagues had never heard of AIDS and were tracking diseases such as rheumatic fever. Today, a glance at any newspaper reveals the blizzard of complex questions epidemiologists must now wrestle with: For example, does a diet rich in fiber cut colon cancer rates? Do postmenopausal women receiving estrogen therapy have a better chance of avoiding heart disease? Does exposure to Agent Orange increase the risk of diabetes?
Epidemiology is a core discipline of public health and of medicine, so each time the introductory course is offered, about 400 students sign up. Those 400 are divided into two groups, with Gordis shepherding one section of 200 students. How does a teacher get a handle on such a jumbo class? "You make it feel like a small one," Gordis says, "by trying to relate personally to students as much as possible, by taking their questions and by monitoring your audience."
Monitoring a throng?
"You look at them," he says with a wide grin. "You can tell a lot from their facial expressions."
Ask William Rising what he likes most about teaching at the School of Public Health, and he doesn't hesitate.
"I really like the master's in public health students because they're here to learn," says Rising, assistant scientist in the Department of Biostatistics. "They don't take classes because they have to; they want to be here."
As the winner of this year's Golden Apple Award in the category of class size under 30, Rising insists that the key to his teaching method is being available to students who need help in getting the message.
"I want to make sure that they have every opportunity to do well in class," Rising says.
Rising, now in his second year at Hopkins, says his teaching goal is simple--to cram as much knowledge as possible into the students' heads. He brings quite a bit of knowledge to the table, including several years spent outside academia in the world of data management. He says he hopes receiving the award is a reflection of the fact that people have learned much from taking his course.
SCHOOL OF MEDICINE
When Edward McCarthy, associate professor of pathology and orthopaedic surgery at the School of Medicine, teaches students to read X-rays, he instructs them to look at the image aesthetically, just as they would a painting or sculpture. He says he wants them to analyze the image and look for pieces that don't seem to fit.
"Usually it's the 'ugly' things they see that are trouble areas for the patient," says McCarthy, referring to the students' verbal descriptions. "It's funny, but it really does help. Some people just don't know how to actually look anymore."
To stress his point, McCarthy also takes his students on field trips, where he tells them to watch people in a completely detached way, "just like Sherlock Holmes."
"It's all about the powers of observation," McCarthy says. "For instance, there are about 10 different ways a patient can limp, and if you watch that person carefully, you can often figure out the source of the limp."
These exercises in visual observation are part of McCarthy's overall teaching strategy to simplify the material so that students grasp basic concepts. He says students should feel good about themselves early on in the learning process so they are more confident when it comes time to tackle more complex subject matter.
"I often ask myself, 'How would I want to learn this material?' " McCarthy says. "When I read this material for the first time, I thought it was pretty obscure. It doesn't need to be that difficult."
In regard to his award, McCarthy says he is delighted to be honored for something he thoroughly enjoys doing.
"In my life there have been four teachers who made me love what it is I do," McCarthy says. "I feel it is my job here on Earth to give away what they gave to me."
SCHOOL OF NURSING
School of Nursing assistant professor Benita Walton-Moss claims she will never stop learning, and she expects her students to have the same attitude. Walton-Moss is recipient of this year's Excellence in Teaching Award for Graduate Programs.
"I tell my students that they will never know it all, so they must always remain open to learning," she says. "I also tell them to always, always listen to their patients. That is critical."
Walton-Moss, a family nurse practitioner, has been teaching at the School of Nursing for three years. Her area of expertise is women's health with a focus on adolescent pregnancy. Before coming to Hopkins she worked as a family nurse practitioner and also as an assistant professor at the Catholic University of America. She received a doctorate in nursing science from the University of California, San Francisco. In 1978 she received a bachelor's degree in nursing from Johns Hopkins' School of Health Services.
One nursing student says Walton-Moss' "absolute brilliance lies in how she presents the abundant information that a graduate student must know in a manner that can be easily synthesized. She has been an extraordinary role model."
Putting the patient first is what nursing is all about, says Michelle Haskey, clinical instructor at the School of Nursing. Haskey is this year's recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award for Undergraduate Programs. She received a master's degree in nursing from Hopkins in 1992 and has been teaching at the School of Nursing since 1994. She teaches medical-surgical nursing to undergraduates and also works part time in the surgical intensive care unit at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.
"Nursing students are so focused on learning skills and creating a broad base of nursing knowledge," Haskey says. "I try to remind them that the patient must always be their primary concern."
One student referred to Haskey as "inspiring" and says "she always pushes us to do our best. She knows what we are capable of and urges us to succeed. Ms. Haskey is a great mentor and gives all her students the utmost respect, and for that she will always have ours."
Julian Gray, who has been on the Peabody faculty since 1983, is the choice of Peabody students to receive this year's Excellence in Teaching Award. In addition to his studio teaching and chamber music coaching, Gray teaches courses in guitar literature and history.
Like other Peabody faculty, Gray teaches by example.
Gray met his performance partner, Ronald Pearl, when both were students at Peabody. Shortly after those student days, Classical Guitar magazine reviewed the duo's debut performance at Wigmore Hall, London. The bible of the classical guitar world praised the pair's "virtuosity" but also commended their "serious fun and sparkle."
Gray brings some of that "serious fun and sparkle" to his teaching. His own Peabody students have had an extraordinary success rate in winning major national prizes and honors. Gray's influence has, however, extended far beyond the guitar department to involve numerous other students in chamber music ensembles where the guitar plays with a wide range of instruments.
SCHOOL OF PROFESSIONAL STUDIES IN BUSINESS AND EDUCATION
Patrick A. Martinelli
Exploring battlefields and exploding myths have formed the core of Patrick A. Martinelli's activities as an innovative teacher at Hopkins.
Martinelli, a senior faculty associate with more than 30 years' experience in the classroom, has taught both undergraduate and graduate classes in three departments within the Graduate Division of Business and Management, including the Master of Business Administration, Organizational Development/ Human Resources and Police Executive Leadership Program. Among the courses he teaches are Strategic Planning, Quality Management and the capstone course that requires students to undertake a "live case study" of an actual business.
"Student evaluations of Martinelli's classes consistently are excellent, with most suggesting that he teach additional courses," says Sheldon Greenberg, interim director of the Graduate Division of Business and Management. "He establishes a high standard of excellence for his students and himself and is constantly improving upon his courses. He challenges students to think creatively and engages them in a variety of activities, including mind mapping, community-focused group projects and scholarly writing."
Renowned for using Civil War battles and commanders to illuminate his lessons on management and leadership, Martinelli says his experiences at Hopkins over the past four years have punctured popular "myths about the supposedly aimless members of Generation X."
"The quality of students, especially the graduate-level evening students, is as fine as any I've ever had, and I've taught a lot of them over the years," says Martinelli, who spent more than 20 years as a professor of finance and marketing at Loyola College and also served seven years as a member of the faculty of the U.S. Air Force Academy and the National Defense University, Industrial College of the Armed Forces.
Richard Weisenhoff, an instructor in business and education instruction, first entered a classroom as a teacher 24 years ago, instructing seventh-graders in mathematics at Baltimore's Calverton Junior High School. When computers arrived a few years later, he implemented the first computer literacy program at Howard High School in Ellicott City.
Soon Weisenhoff became a computer specialist and administrator, developing a curriculum for computer education in Howard County's public schools, where his responsibilities and supervisory titles have been upgraded repeatedly. He now is coordinator of Technology Education, responsible for overseeing 22 vocational programs, including Business Education and Computer-Related Instruction.
Weisenhoff has remained a teacher at heart and says, "Hopkins has given me a chance to do it since 1986."
"Students always speak very highly of him," says Jacqueline Nunn, chair of the Department of Technology for Educators. "He has been with us since the beginning and helped design the program. He keeps us apprised of what is needed in the public schools."
In exit interviews after Weisenhoff's courses, students consistently have said "they can't believe how much they learned from him in one semester," says assistant professor Linda Tsantis, who conducts the informal polls and keeps track of student course evaluations. "He's very focused and supportive. His interpersonal skills are exceptional. He's Howard County's multimedia guru, and knows exactly how it works in the real world of the classroom."
In the newspaper business, where James Wayne once worked, a critic likely would award him four stars as a teacher, based on the reviews of students in Wayne's courses, Human Resources Management, Management Theory and Strategy, and Organizational Behavior.
Wrote one student: "The lectures were an absolute joy!" Another praised Wayne for being "real world. Have him teach more classes--he's incredible." Another simply praised him as a "great teacher."
Wayne's "real world" experience certainly is diverse. Currently dean of continuing education for the Community College of Baltimore County, he has an MBA in industrial relations from Seton Hall University and has served as the managing partner in an Annapolis-based consulting firm, corporate vice president for human resources for USF&G, director of benefits for People's Drug Stores and even spent a year in the Carter administration as a member of the Grace Commission's task force on hospital management.
"Jim is an outstanding instructor with a dynamic and engaging teaching style," says Sara Thompson, director of Business and Management Studies. "He has established strong, long-term relationships with our students and brings real-world examples and practices of human resources management into the classroom. Students say he shows a tremendous concern for their learning and ongoing professional growth."
Wayne says he is "personally pleased and professionally honored" to receive the Excellence in Teaching Award.
"I hope it also recognizes the effectiveness of the relationship between the administration and the faculty. Clearly no one does this alone. The relationship between the student, the faculty and the administration, that's what makes Hopkins so special," says Wayne, who has taught in the Undergraduate Division at SPSBE since 1992.
The School of Advanced International Studies will announce its winners at commencement.
Writers contributing to this article were Michael Purdy, Neil A. Grauer, Anne Garside, Kate Pipkin, Greg Rienzi, Rod Graham and Phil Sneiderman.