Janesville – UW-Rock County instructors Kristin Plessel of Janesville and Susan Stredulinsky of Evansville received the 2014 Gil Sedor Excellence in Teaching Awards.
A UW-Rock County assistant professor of chemistry since 2010, Plessel was nominated for her outstanding instruction in the chemistry program based largely on her use of the Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) method. Plessel learned of this teaching approach through workshops as a graduate student and she became so passionate about it that she now is a certified trainer who facilitates workshops for high school and collegiate educators across the country.
This different style of teaching takes some students a month or so to get used to, but by the end of the semester even the students who didn’t like it at first are receptive to it and can see the benefit, according to Plessel. “I don’t even lecture. The students guide their own learning in a collaborative classroom environment facilitated by me,” explains Plessel.
The POGIL method helps with retention of material and, because it is modeled on the scientific method, it is applicable for most science classrooms. For example, students may be working on an activity with certain information given to them, but they must then come up with their own definitions for the results or trends they observe. Then, after they’ve taken ownership of the information, they will learn from the instructor what the actual definition for that phenomenon is.
Plessel earned her doctorate and master’s degree in chemistry from UW-Madison and her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She lives in Janesville with her husband and daughter.
Stredulinsky, who started working at UW-Rock County in 2005 and is a senior lecturer of biological sciences, was nominated for the award based on her outstanding organizational skills and compassion for each student.
Last semester, Stredulinsky taught Heredity and Concepts of Biology. One of her students said of her, “Overall, she is a great instructor and I always tell my friends to take her classes as you will learn, and yet still have fun. She is firm, but fair and her classes never fail to make me think, laugh and learn.”
Students and colleagues note that Stredulinsky organizes her courses so that students know what to expect from the first day and is consistent in those expectations while still working with students to be successful regardless of their individual circumstances.
“I teach many students who are planning to continue into healthcare, research and other demanding scientific careers,” says Stredulinsky. “It is important for me to provide clear expectations and design a course so students can meet them. I also strive to remain approachable while treating students fairly so that I can assist them in forming realistic strategies that will help them succeed.”
She also uses technology and innovative teaching methods to enhance learning and she shares what works with her colleagues. “She recently tried a new laboratory exercise to teach the difficult concept of transcription and translation of DNA,” says fellow biology instructor Krissy Weisgerber of Stredulinsky. “She has also kindly shared it with her colleagues. I plan on incorporating it in my teaching as well.”
Stredulinsky earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey and a master’s degree in wildlife science from Virginia Tech. She lives in Evansville with her husband Ed Stredulinsky who is a mathematics professor at UW-Rock County.
The Excellence in Teaching Awards are named for Gil Sedor, a local attorney who served on the UW-Rock County Foundation Board of Directors for many years, helping to raise funds for building projects and scholarships as well as providing these monetary awards for outstanding instructors. Sedor passed away in February.