Building a legacy through teaching
Update: On December 5, 2019, the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) announced Chris Merrill as the 2020 ACTE Teacher Educator of the Year. This award recognizes teacher educators who have demonstrated innovation in teacher education, leadership in improving CTE, and commitment to preparing teachers to deliver high-quality CTE programs.
The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) announced on Monday, September 23, technology and engineering education professor at Illinois State, Professor Chris Merrill as the 2019 ACTE Region III Teacher Educator of the Year. This makes Merrill a finalist for the ACTE National Teacher Educator of the Year.
Merrill worked as a cabinetmaker early in his career, influenced by his father who was an engineer. Reflecting on how he started a career in teaching, Merrill says there were several instances that pushed him toward a teaching career which he didn’t recognize them. He had been very talented and enjoyed working with his hands. As a high school student, Merrill helped other students with woodwork projects.
Currently completing his 20th teaching year at Illinois State University, Merrill has been a Redbird for 28 years. Before his time at Illinois State, he taught at Gardner-South Wilmington High School and DeKalb High School.
“I enjoyed my time teaching technology and engineering education and coaching at the high school level, and could have stayed at either school for my entire teaching career, but deep inside, I knew I wanted to learn more about my field and to ultimately prepare teachers, so I left my high school teaching position and earned a doctorate in integrated mathematics, science, and technology education – what is known today as STEM education,” Merrill said. “Today, I get to ‘go to school’ and work with amazing ISU students who want to pursue the same career I did, which makes me very excited and proud. I also get to use technology and engineering tools and processes each day, which makes me feel good because I am using my hands.”
Merrill was awarded the Outstanding Teacher Educator of the Year by Illinois Association for Career and Technical Education (IACTE). “I did not even know that I was nominated for the award. I later found out that at least three of my peers from across Illinois nominated me for this award and submitted written documents based on what they knew of my career as an educator,” Merrill said.
Upon receiving the award in Illinois, Merrill was encouraged to submit his nomination to the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) Region 3 Conference to compete against other individual winners from Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, and Missouri, and was selected as the Region 3 Teacher Educator. “In December of this year, I will attend the national ACTE Conference where I will be competing with all other educators in the United States. Regardless of the December outcome, I am honored and humbled to have been selected as a United States finalist,” he said.
On career-defining moments, Merrill acknowledges the people who have been helpful in his career journey. Merrill talks candidly about the triumphs and hardships of completing his doctoral program at Ohio State University.
“My cognitive and emotional dispositions were tested to levels I did not honestly know existed; I had several moments in time that I wanted to quit. It was through discussions with faculty at Ohio State, especially Dr. Michael Scott, and from former ISU faculty (Michael Daugherty and Franzie Loepp), that kept me going through very tough times, which ultimately made me a better person,” he said.
Merrill prioritizes paying this impact forward to his students and continues to work with ISU students to become successful technology and engineering education teachers and leaders. Merrill recalls another defining moment in his career.
“Being selected as the keynote speaker at the Foundation on Technology and Engineering Excellence by the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association was one of the biggest honors for me because I sat in the audience for nearly 20 years in awe of the professionals that delivered this keynote speech each year – to know that I was selected to address my peers was very special to me,” he said.
The College of Applied Science and Technology wishes Merrill the best as he competes for the ACTE National Teacher Educator of the Year. We are #RedbirdProud.