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2021 Recipients for The Pendleton Pivot for Teaching Excellence Award

The Pendleton Pivot for Teaching Excellence Award recognizes Park School faculty and staff who went above and beyond in teaching methods during disrupted and virtual or hybrid semesters.

Since our new reality in March 2020, COVID-19 has affected education greatly. Out of necessity, new ways of delivering course material developed at a rapid pace. Particularly in undergraduate communications education, new methodologies, technologies, and ways of thinking were required for the success of faculty and students alike. Beyond necessary changes, many members of the Park School community took this opportunity to reconceptualize, recalibrate, and redirect their courses and student engagement. Through these efforts, innovation in how we teach and how students learn the discipline of communications occurred rapidly. This award recognizes Park School faculty who were instrumental in that innovation, and those whose impactful transformation in online and hybrid instruction has enhanced student engagement and amplified how we deliver and define the field of communications.

“The Park School has extraordinarily committed faculty members and never was this more evident than when we had to pivot from in-person to remote learning. These award winners deserve recognition for their innovative teaching methods that allowed our students to not only learn but to thrive in a challenging environment. I am thankful to be surrounded by such excellent teachers.”

Interim Dean Jack Powers

Pendleton Pivot for Teaching Excellence Award (PPTE) Recipients 2021

Chrissy Guest:
Professor Chrissy Guest, faced with many challenging courses to adapt to the virtual format, rose to the occasion without compromising the student experience. In a fully online Live Event Production class, she guided her students through successful projects. Through her mentorship, students were able to use new and advanced methods of video production, which enabled them to create engaging and immersive virtual experiences ahead of the curve. Under her guidance, her students produced multiple live graduation ceremonies for streaming and broadcast. She also assisted in other similar projects, as one student writes: “I was part of the group that planned and executed the remote broadcast of the She Kills Monsters production. In order to execute the live broadcast, we had to learn the equipment as we went along, and we couldn’t have pulled it off without the mentorship of Professor Guest. From the feedback that we received, this broadcast was extremely successful in creating a believable world that brought the audience into the story, which regular Zoom productions weren’t able to emulate.” Once class moved to a hybrid style, she was no less proactive in implementing changes to facilitate learning. In a class utilizing studio equipment, she ensured that virtual students could still see everything happening in-studio and participate as readily as in-person students. She was also cognizant of potential issues with hybrid learning on complex equipment, and recorded lectures which were readily available to students, as well as regularly checked in to ensure the whole class was at the same level of understanding. By thoughtfully adapting her courses and consistently connecting with students, Professor Chrissy Guest provided valuable and thorough education throughout uncertain and challenging semesters.

Lisa Farman:
Professor Lisa Farman adapted her teaching style for material many students considered difficult for the virtual format with a student understanding-centric view. She consistently ensured that students were successful in absorbing their coursework, and that they were not on their own while trying to understand the material. By recording short videos for students to watch before class and gauging the level of understanding, she was then able to focus on problem areas or questions that came up. She also allowed students to work on activities together in breakout rooms, which was not only successful in students’ opinions, but also allowed her to help students on an even more individual basis. The recorded information also aided students in reviewing material, and students cited her organizational skills as incredibly helpful. By using the virtual environment as an opportunity to create more accessible lessons and meet students where they were finding challenges, Professor Lisa Farman successfully facilitated learning despite virtual semesters.

Yvette Sterbenk:
Professor Yvette Sterbenk was presented with the challenge of adapting Event Planning courses, particularly Applied Events, to the virtual landscape. With so many live events canceled and seniors in need of real-world experience to complete their minor, she worked to open up their opportunities to virtual spaces. She also worked to find internships for these same seniors. She was versatile in reshaping her course material for the virtual landscape, and competent in her organization and distribution of material over virtual platforms such as Sakai. Through the care that she showed for her students during the virtual semesters and her ability to engage her students even through these challenges, students felt connected to the class and the material on a deep level. In the words of a student: “I cannot deny how deeply engrained her lessons are within me and the shocking level of understanding I now have of the field. Overall, I cannot express my appreciation for this professor and what she has done for her students.” With challenging material to convert to the virtual landscape and personal challenges amongst students, Professor Yvette Sterbenk ensured that her students had the opportunities they needed, access to organized coursework, and a calm and sensitive environment.

Pete Johanns:
Professor Pete Johanns was able to successfully merge concepts learned in the virtual classroom with activities done in the studios while in person. He was also successful in taking the theoretical concepts of the virtual classroom into the physical classroom and applying them to the real world as well. In a student’s words, “he was able to continue our conversations from there and apply it in real world scenarios, making us feel comfortable as students to take more risks and push ourselves beyond our limits.” Due to the way Professor Pete Johanns blended the concepts and practical application in his class, students felt confident in the course material even despite obstacles faced during the pandemic.

Ann-Marie Adams:
In a rapidly changing atmosphere during Spring 2020, Professor Ann-Marie Adams was able to pivot just as quickly to bring the important career experiences important to students. She was able to facilitate networking, workshops, and panels through a series of forums, despite challenges and the transition to the virtual landscape. She also always made it a priority to listen to student feedback, and took this into account while also consistently working to understand what material was relevant for students in the ever-changing job market. She moved quickly and thoughtfully to continue to assist students at the same caliber as before the pandemic.

Rocio Nunez-Shea:
Dr. Rocio Nunez-Shea showed considerable understanding for her students during the virtual semesters, particularly when working on projects remotely. She ensured that her students were still able to succeed in this environment by helping them work through issues associated with virtual learning. As a student wrote, “Dr. Nunez adapted very well to remote learning and understood how hard it was for us to create projects remotely. A lot of what we did in her class was originally supposed to be group work, but she ensured that we were still able to collaborate while being remote.” Dr. Rocio Nunez-Shea prioritized helping her students collaborate and considered the difficult circumstances of many students during virtual semesters.

William Ressler:
Professor William Ressler created enjoyable and engaging classes for his students despite the challenges associated with ensuring students are motivated in an online classroom setting. Through varied activities that he provided, such as games, group work, videos, and student presentations to name a few, students were always invested in class and enjoyed attending class each day. Regarding his classes, a student wrote: “Through student presentations, games, videos, and lessons on his whiteboard it was new and fun every class! Being on Zoom gives me a lot of anxiety and Professor Ressler always welcomed every student and made everyone feel included and part of class which can be tough over Zoom. He deeply cares about his job, and it was so refreshing to be a student in his class.” Professor William Ressler’s passion was evident throughout work in the virtual classroom, and this translated to an engaging and inclusive experience for students.

Stephen Tropiano:
Dr. Stephen Tropiano was continually innovating while teaching classes online. Already recognized as a leader in teaching remotely, he continued to create learning opportunities for students in the form of asynchronous screenings and related online work in order to facilitate a deeper level of student thinking. He also maintained a focus on improving student writing in his classes, particularly Writing Intensive classes. Dr. Stephen Tropiano built on his already developed knowledge of teaching online courses and continually innovated to bring the best possible experience to students during unusually challenging semesters.