USMA Celebrates Teaching
Dr. Mark Evans, Center for Teaching Excellence
The 4th Annual Academic Luncheon to celebrate teaching at West Point was held Monday, 14 May at the West Point Club. Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, Dean of the Academic Board and Brigadier General Robert Caslen, Commandant of Cadets, keynote speaker Dr. Michael Reder, fifty graduates of the Master Teacher Program, and one hundred additional faculty and guests attended the luncheon.
Why have a luncheon celebrating teaching at West Point? Dr Mark Evans, Director of the USMA Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) answered that question. “Because it’s the most important thing that we do – it is a constant activity – both in and out of the classroom, whether regarding academics, officership, professionalism – teaching cadets is job one. It’s the primary reason that most of us are here. Most of us are in the classroom every day – teaching, talking about how to teach better, assessing student learning, and discussing how to assess good teaching. Since Cadets and Teaching and Learning are the center of our universe, it’s is fitting to sit together at this luncheon to celebrate teaching at West Point.”
The keynote speaker for the luncheon was Dr. Michael Reder, Professor of English at Connecticut College and Director of their Center for Teaching and Learning. Dr. Reder impressed upon the faculty audience that teaching is best done in an open community with a quote from Lee Shulman (Taking Learning Seriously), “Learning flourishes when we take what we think we know and offer it as community property among fellow learners so that it can be tested, examined, challenged, and improved before we internalize it.” He also described the dual nature of teaching where a teacher is both an advocate for the student as well as an assessor or examiner. The two natures can sometimes conflict with each other and teachers must walk a delicate balance. Dr. Reder cited Peter Elbow (Embracing Contraries in the Teaching Process) to stress his point: “Our loyalty to our students asks us to be their allies and hosts as we instruct and share: to invite all students to enter in and join us as members of a learning community, even if they have difficulty. But our commitment to knowledge and society asks us to be guardians and bouncers: we must discriminate, evaluate, test, grade, certify.”
Following the keynote address, Generals Finnegan and Caslen, distributed framed certificates to fifty graduates of the Master Teacher Program (MTP). The MTP is a two-year long professional development program offered by the CTE. The program participants meet monthly and discuss assigned readings on issues of teaching pedagogy and write reflections on those readings. The participants also perform a classroom research project and write a paper on that project as a graduation requirement. Many participants publish those papers in a conference proceedings or in a teaching-related journal. The names of this year’s graduates, by department, are:
Following the MTP certificates, Dr. Sue Tendy, DPE, and a member of the CTE Advisory Committee, introduced the winner of the Apgar Award – awarded to a faculty member for commitment to developing and/or applying innovative concepts and methods of teaching that expand cadets’ horizons, for a teaching-related project that is innovative and employs new teaching pedagogy and skill development, and has the potential for reaching many cadets. The winner of the 2007 Apgar award is MAJ Raymond Kimball, Department of History, for his project: High-Tech Teaching in a Low-Tech Discipline: The Blended History Classroom. MAJ Kimball will receive the award from the Superintendent at the Academic Convocation held at the start of the Fall semester.
The luncheon ended with one final recognition from the Dean for three former faculty members who demonstrated and epitomized continued growth as teachers. MAJ Brett Van Poppel, MAJ Holly West, and MAJ Brian Tribus, initiated and wrote a series of articles for the CTE monthly newsletter entitled “Once a Teacher, Always a Teacher.” They continue to set the standard as teachers in their Army jobs following their West Point tours as teachers. All are slated for graduate school and to return to West Point.
Photos by John Pellino, DOIM (x5885) TH 211