TLTE’s Wessels receives CEHS Swanson Award for teaching excellence
07 Apr 2017 By Brad Stauffer
The College of Education and Human Sciences (CEHS) at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln has selected Stephanie Wessels, associate professor of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education, as the 2017 recipient of the Donald R. & Mary Lee Swanson Award for Teaching Excellence. Wessels was recognized at a campus luncheon in her honor April 7 and will also be honored at the CEHS Awards Ceremony April 21.
The central focus of the Swanson Award is the positive impact of teaching excellence on students. Award recipients must demonstrate that their teaching promotes thinking, encourages engaged, active and continuous learning, and holds high standards for student performance. They must also provide evidence that they are working to improve their own teaching, including research and scholarly activity.
“For me, it is essential to establish a learning atmosphere where the students engage with the topic at hand, with me, and with each other based on the belief that effective teaching depends upon intellectual exchange, social interaction and self-reflection,” says Wessels. “In each class, I model the balance between lecture, discussion, hands-on and small group practice of new content and pedagogical knowledge in my courses and believe that this balance is the key contributor to a high level of student engagement in the teaching and learning process.”
Her students appreciate the active engagement and understand that Wessels is preparing them for success in their teaching careers. “She cares about the students and lets you know it,” a student reported in a course evaluation. “She makes clear that she is here to teach and help you grow in the class. She wants to make sure that we are prepared teachers, and she was by far the coolest teacher I’ve had in the program yet. She was nice in class, and treated us all like professionals.”
Wessels is the elementary education coordinator for her department and is a former English as a second language teacher in K-12 schools in Nebraska. She has taught a variety of subjects at Nebraska including early childhood, research methods, science and social studies, but she remains passionate about preparing students to work with English learners (EL) in Nebraska schools—a population she believes is underserved and rapidly changing the demographics of the state. She notes one in five kindergarten students in Nebraska are of Hispanic origin, which directly impacts current and future classroom teachers.
“Teachers have a crucial opportunity and responsibility to address the ELs’ instructional needs” Wessels says. “While ELs’ are acquiring the target language, effective teaching is the single most critical factor to ensure successful learning.”
The Swanson Award for Teaching Excellence was established by Don and Mary Lee Swanson through the University of Nebraska Foundation. The annual recipient receives a cash award.
College of Education and Human Sciences
Teaching, Learning & Teacher Education