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K-State Today

May 11, 2015

University honors four with Commerce Bank and W.T. Kemper Foundation Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

Four Kansas State University faculty members were rewarded for years of exceptional teaching with the Commerce Bank and W.T. Kemper Foundation Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award at the All-University Awards Ceremony May 6.

The 2015 recipients of the award are Christian Larson, instructor of kinesiology; Ashley Rhodes, instructor of biology; Laura Tietjen, instructor of curriculum and instruction; and Shannon Washburn, professor of communications and agricultural education.

Sponsored by the William T. Kemper Foundation and the Commerce Bancshares Foundation and coordinated through the Kansas State University Foundation, the awards include a $2,500 honorarium.

"Commerce Bank and the William T. Kemper Foundation are proud to continue a 20-year partnership of honoring K-State's exceptional faculty, who are continually inspiring students to never stop learning," said Tom Giller, community bank president of Commerce Bank, Manhattan.

University President Kirk Schulz said that gifts like those from Commerce Bank and the William T. Kemper Foundation are excellent examples of the community's support of K-State's 2025 goals.

"K-State's community support of our teachers is greatly appreciated and helps the university make progress toward becoming a Top 50 public research university by 2025," he said. "These individuals exemplify the innovative ways our teachers engage students in learning. I am proud to recognize them with this award."

Larson has taught courses ranging in size from 20 to 220 students. He is the course coordinator for Biobehavioral Bases of Physical Activity. He uses his seven years of experience in the health and wellness private sector to aid his teaching. He has worked in the development and item writing for an international fitness exam and is a current board member for an international fitness credential. In addition, he is a member of seminar presentation staff focusing on youth fitness.

Rhodes’ teaching philosophy is based on the simple tenet of always doing what is best for students and showing that she cares about them. Rhodes has applied this philosophy in a variety of different types of classes from Introductory Biology to Human Body, one of the Division of Biology’s most difficult undergraduate courses. Her teaching evaluations reflect success with high scores in both teacher effectiveness and an increased desire to learn. She uses multiple curricular approaches to help students see the long-term benefit of questioning, understanding and knowing the material instead of the short-term memorization of facts and figures to pass a test. She also has developed e-textbooks for Human Body and Physiological Adaptations courses, which saves students money.

Tietjen enjoys interacting with students and centers her teaching philosophy on students’ needs. She creates an environment in her classroom where every student can maximize his or her learning potential. Her teaching caters to each student’s different learning style while motivating students to take responsibility for his or her education. She encourages students to help her teach, which supports open discussion of multiple viewpoints.

Washburn understands that relevance is the best motivator for learning, and that students must have opportunities to question, apply and practice to learn. He teaches with enthusiasm and passion that is transferred to his students. He is a consistent leader and participant in the Faculty Exchange for Teaching Excellence and the Teaching and Learning Center, where he presents the best practices for teaching and engaging learners to new faculty. In addition, Washburn co-facilitated the overhaul of the new extension agent training program and led the development and proposal of an interdisciplinary curriculum with the Staley School of Leadership Studies.

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