Four Educators of the Year named by MnSCU Board of Trustees

Posted: April 22, 2010

Contact: Doug Anderson,, 651-201-1426

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees Wednesday presented the system’s highest academic honor, Educator of the Year Awards, to four faculty members from Anoka-Ramsey Community College, Rochester Community and Technical College and Dakota County Technical College.

The four honorees were selected from among 26 Board of Trustees Outstanding Educators in the Board of Trustees Excellence in Teaching award program. They are Paula Croonquist of Anoka-Ramsey Community College; Lori Halverson-Wente and Pam Whitfield, both of Rochester Community and Technical College and Mark Hickman of Dakota County Technical College.

“We applaud these faculty members for their commitment and demonstrated excellence in serving students and their communities, especially during these hard economic times when Minnesotans are enrolling in our colleges and universities in greatly increasing number,” said Dan McElroy, who chairs the board’s Academic and Student Affairs Committee.

Chancellor James H. McCormick said: “I am proud that we highlight the excellence of our faculty with these awards. The honorees exemplify what we value most in this system – high-quality teaching, learning and service.”

More information on the winners follows:

Paula Croonquist, biology instructor at Anoka-Ramsey Community College. Reviewers cited her scientific rigor and creativity. One biologist on the review committee said, “It’s really hard to do research work with first- and second-year students, and she does a great job of it. She puts together half-semester-long research projects of considerable complexity in a short time (e.g., her students clone and sequence a gene in a genetics class).” She finds ways to engage students’ scientific imagination through classroom activities like “the dance of the chromosomes and arranges for her students to get research experience in university laboratories.”

Lori Halverson-Wente, speech instructor at Rochester Community and Technical College. Reviewers said her teaching methods blend theory and practice. She constantly demonstrates creativity in using technology, not as a gimmick but in an obviously purposeful, strategic manner tied to her teaching methods and techniques. Skills Demos, for example, are videos that she uses to showcase excellence in techniques. Also, she uses video labs, YouTube and digital repositories to introduce essential interpersonal communication skills to her students. Her students’ service-learning trips to Cambodia benefit Rochester-area schools.

Pam Whitfield, English and equine science instructor at Rochester Community and Technical College. Reviewers said Whitfield engages students through group work, class discussions and peer-led supplemental instruction. Whitfield uses clearly stated standards, presents clear learning outcomes and employs a range of assessment tools: feedback loops, teaching observations, assignment specific rubrics and student self-assessment tools. Whitfield’s approach gives students greater control in their learning experience. A published author and noted equine judge, Whitfield also demonstrates a passionate commitment to the college’s comprehensive learning center since it opened in 2006.

Mark Hickman, transportation instructor at Dakota County Technical College. Reviewers cited Hickman for his effectiveness in encouraging students who typically do not read books or take notes to do both. They lauded him for creative teaching methods—using a garden hose to demonstrate electrical flow, for example. Hickman also uses peer consultation, which allows his colleagues to talk with his students about how he can improve his teaching and their learning. He was active in the accreditation review and serves as vice chair in his union. Hickman adapted a national industry rubric and then removed subjectivity and improved its validity. Results of his students on nationally benchmarked tests are consistently above the national average.

The four honorees were selected from the group of 26 Outstanding Educators nominated by the presidents of their institutions. A panel of judges that included faculty members, presidents, administrators and students then reviewed the nominees and recommended the four honorees to the trustees. The board approved the recommendations at its Wednesday meeting.

This is the fourth year that the board has presented its Excellence in Teaching Awards. Each of the four honorees receives $5,000 and a medallion hand-crafted in the jewelry design and manufacture program at Minneapolis Community and Technical College.

The other Outstanding Educators and their institutions are: Janet Bedard and Gary Carson, both at Central Lakes College; Cullen Bailey-Burns, Carl Chung and Brian Lewis, all at Century College; Drew Goddard, Kenneth Schindler, both at Hennepin Technical College; David Page, Inver Hills Community College; Jocelyn Pihlaja and Sue Shelerud, both at Lake Superior College; Todd Bridigum, Minneapolis Community and Technical College; Leslie Bauman, Minnesota West Community and Technical College; Mary Ewert-Knodell, Julien Phillips and Susan Nyhus, all at North Hennepin Community College; Carol Church, Northeast Higher Education District-Itasca Community College; Susannah Devereux, Northeast Higher Education District-Mesabi Range Community and Technical College; Ronald Ferguson Jr. and Vicky Melbye, both at Ridgewater College; Jerome Girton, Riverland Community College; Susan Senger, Saint Paul College and Joy Sjoberg, St. Cloud Technical and Community College.

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system employs nearly 11,000 full- and part-time faculty and comprises 32 state universities and community and technical colleges serving the higher education needs of Minnesota.