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K-State Today

February 27, 2013

Exemplifying excellence: Two graduate students earn national recognition for teaching distinction

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

A Kansas State University doctoral student and a master's student have both received national awards for their excellence in teaching.

Tammy Sonnentag, doctoral candidate in psychological sciences, Edgar, Wis., and Jarred Pfeiffer, master's student in fine arts-ceramics, Hartland, Wis., have each received the 2013 Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools Excellence in Teaching Award. Sonnentag has received the award at the doctoral level and Pfeiffer has received the award at the master's level.

Each year, the award honors two graduate students who exemplify excellence in the teaching and learning missions of universities. As recipients, Sonnentag and Pfeiffer will each receive a $750 honorarium and will represent Kansas State University at the awards luncheon on Thursday, April 11, in Minneapolis as part of the Midwestern Association of Graduate Students Conference.

"We are excited that the two Kansas State University nominees were selected for this year's Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools Excellence in Teaching Awards," said Carol Shanklin, dean of the Graduate School. "We congratulate Tammy and Jarred on this tremendous achievement. Both students have shown a passion for making a difference in the learning experiences of our undergraduate students. Based on their achievement as graduate teaching assistants, I know that both Tammy and Jared will have outstanding academic careers."

Sonnentag has been the primary instructor for courses in general psychology, health psychology, lifespan personality development and psychology of childhood and adolescence. She also has assisted faculty members with other courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels in the department of psychological sciences. She credits Mark Barnett, professor of psychological sciences and her major adviser, and Donald Saucier, associate professor of psychological sciences, as two role models for her teaching.

"Both of these faculty have a passion for teaching and I strive to achieve the standards of teaching excellence that they set," Sonnentag said. "I give credit to the faculty in the department of psychological sciences for supporting and facilitating my teaching endeavors."

Sonnentag plans to graduate in May 2014 and to pursue a career in higher education where she can contribute to the teaching and research missions of the institution.

"It is an honor to be recognized for the Midwestern Association of Graduate School's Award for Teaching Excellence," Sonnentag said. "I am very humbled to have been nominated for, and selected to receive, this prestigious award."

Pfeiffer teaches undergraduate courses in ceramics, 3-D design and 2-D design. As the graduate assistant area coordinator of 3-D design, Pfeiffer worked with and mentored the three other graduate students who taught 3-D design courses. He also purchased equipment and supplies, maintained the classroom, coordinated student exhibitions and gave presentations in art classes.

"The only thing that rivals my love of art is my passion for education," Pfeiffer said. "As an art educator, my goal is to excite students about artistic expression through mastery of design elements and principles, examination of art history and analysis of contemporary trends. Teaching strategies addressing diverse learning styles and the development of a classroom community assure successful outcomes. As a professional artist and educator, I use examples of my own art and ongoing research to inspire students."

Before attending Kansas State University, Pfeiffer was with Teach For America and taught high school geometry in Charlotte, N.C. He said the experience taught him about who he is and the teacher he wants to be. His major adviser is Dylan Beck, assistant professor of art. Pfeiffer will graduate in May and wants to teach at the college or university level.

"I am incredibly honored to receive this award," Pfeiffer said. "Growing up in a household with a combined 65 years of teaching experience, I have always admired the qualities that make a great educator. Throughout my career in education I strive to be the most effective teacher possible. This award confirms that I am on the right path, and I look forward to continue inspiring students."