Professor Allison Harris, Department of Physics; Professor Aimee Miller-Ott, School of Communication; and Professor Amy Wood, Department of History are the 2017-2018 College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding College Teachers.
“I continue to be impressed by the outstanding teaching that has become a hallmark of the College of Arts and Sciences,” said Dean Simpson. “Professors Harris, Miller-Ott, and Wood have long records of excellence in teaching, and we are fortunate to have them among the Illinois State faculty.” The three professors were honored during the spring dean’s address and awards ceremony on April 10, along with the recipients of College research and service awards.
In her four years at Illinois State, Allison Harris has taught classes at essentially every level that the Department of Physics offers. These courses range from a Group 1 general education course, Atoms to Galaxies (PHY 102), to senior level courses, such as Advanced Computational Methods (PHY 388). Each of these courses demands a different teaching style from the professor, and Harris has excelled in each of them. In 2016 she was the recipient of the College of Arts and Sciences Award for Outstanding Teaching by a Pre-Tenured Faculty Member. In addition to her standard course load, she has actively mentored nine undergraduate students in her research program since arriving at Illinois State, resulting in eight student co-authored publications (with three more submitted) and 22 student co-authored presentations. She has also been the advisor for a number of in-class honors projects that have enhanced the education of some of the university’s best students. Her ability to identify projects suitable for undergraduate students so they can learn as well as actively contribute to publications and presentations is outstanding. She is a model instructor at all levels in the physics curriculum, is innovative in the classroom, and is constantly seeking to improve what are already outstanding courses.
At the core of Aimee Miller-Ott’s teaching is the idea that she wants her students to “become ‘mini-experts,’” and it is clear that they pick up on that value. She developed a new graduate seminar focusing on family communication and has been instrumental in redesigning the curriculum for the Communication Studies major. She regularly incorporates student research in her courses by requiring students to collect and analyze data on various communication topics, which often results in submissions to and presentations at national, regional, and local conferences. Beyond her formal teaching assignments, Miller-Ott works with students outside of traditional settings as a member of thesis and non-thesis graduate committees. Students also seek her guidance on independent study projects. She has presented at the Illinois State University Center for Teaching and Learning Technology’s (CTLT) Summer Showcase. Prior to joining the Illinois State faculty, as a member of the communication faculty at the University of Hartford, she was the recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award from the National Society of Leadership and Success and the Innovative Teaching and Learning Award. Miller-Ott clearly exemplifies exceptional attitudes, understanding, and motivation that lie at the foundation of her outstanding teaching.
Great teaching often reflects great scholarship. A recipient of Outstanding College Researcher Awards in 2010 and 2015, Amy Wood deploys her deep knowledge of U.S. history in a wide array of courses. She has developed no less than fifteen courses since coming to work at Illinois State, including a heavy load of General Education classes and required classes for graduate and undergraduate majors. In all her courses, Wood wants students to learn to appreciate history the way that professional historians do: as a process of interpretation and deliberation. To that end, she places a lot of emphasis on writing. Students are writing in some form or another every week in her classes. Through an interactive classroom environment and innovative assignments, she motivates students to feel invested in what and how they are learning. She, in turn, is invested in their success and spends much time working with students on improving their skills. Indeed, Wood’s mentorship and individual attention are in constant demand. Just in the past seven years, she has directed over 10 independent studies, seven capstone master’s “field of study” exams, and five master’s theses. Outside the department, she has been invited to share her expertise in college classrooms around the country.