MnSCU Board of Trustees Honors Four with “Educator of the Year” Award

Posted: April 18, 2012

Contact: Doug Anderson,, 651-201-1426

Winners chosen from among 37 Outstanding Educator nominees

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) Board of Trustees Wednesday presented the system’s highest academic honor, the Educator of the Year Award, to four faculty members. They are Phyllis Ballata of Century College, Paul Carney of Minnesota State Community and Technical College, Shawn Mueske of Ridgewater College and Rod Milbrandt of Rochester Community and Technical College.

The honorees were selected as part of the MnSCU Board of Trustees Excellence in Teaching award program, which recognizes professional achievement and encourages the ongoing pursuit of excellence. The winners were selected from 37 faculty members named Outstanding Educators by their presidents and based on nominations by students, faculty peers or staff. Evaluation criteria include teaching strategies and materials; content expertise; service to students, the profession, institution and the system; and assessment of student learning and performance. Each of the four honorees receives $5,000 and a handcrafted medallion. This is the sixth year of the awards.

“These faculty members demonstrate what it takes to create an extraordinary education for our students,” said Scott Thiss, chair of the Board of Trustees. “They are among our finest faculty and staff who provide the best education available in Minnesota.”

“The award winners reflect the remarkable teaching and learning that goes on across our colleges and universities,” said Steven Rosenstone, MnSCU chancellor. “The stimulating learning environment created by these outstanding educators inspires our students to strive for exceptional levels of academic achievement. Their dedication fosters in students the creativity, innovation and resourcefulness which not only positions them to become leaders in their fields, but more importantly, enriches their lives.”

Here is additional information about the four award winners:

Phyllis Ballata

Phyllis Ballata, instructor of English at Century College. Ballata is being recognized for her rigor as a teacher and her personal care for students. She requires each student to meet with her individually two to four times each semester. Her active learning strategies have become the English department’s standard. Activities such as student peer editing and primary research assignments require students’ active engagement. Their experience helps the students to make connections between their learning in English class and other areas of their academic and personal lives. Ballata has served multiple terms as campus faculty association president and as a board member of the Minnesota State College Faculty.

Paul Carney

Paul Carney, instructor of English as Minnesota State Community and Technical College. Carney is being recognized for the creativity of his methods and his beliefs about writing. Most notably, he is the developer and coordinator of Ready or Not Writing, which helps assess high school students’ college readiness in writing and reading. His manual, “Student Guide to Writing the Multi-Source Paper,” gives students concrete help with the challenge of college-level research papers. In his courses, Carney matches each student’s assessment to the course and applies the work, “Analyzing the Rigor and Relevance of an Assessment,” in designing course activities and outcome measures.

Rod Milbrandt

Rod Milbrandt, instructor of physics at Rochester Community and Technical College. Milbrandt is being recognized for reducing lecture time through online “pre-lectures” and quizzes so that passive sitting and listening now take a small part of class time. His approach de-emphasizes memorization, focusing instead on analysis and problem-solving skills. Milbrandt applies his teaching to real-life scenarios and takes students into the community or brings in guest speakers, including professionals at Mayo and IBM. In addition, he develops case studies and problems that apply to his students’ particular fields of study, and all of his teaching practices require student participation.

Shawn Mueske, instructor of biology at Ridgewater College. Shawn Mueske Mueske is being recognized for his masterful range of teaching strategies and assignments, a nuanced approach to assessment and considerable contributions to the college, system and community. An active collaborator with faculty at other colleges, he was a leader in the development of the system’s “Science Express,” a mobile science lab bus that travels across the mid-Minnesota region to engage middle- and high-school students in active science labs and learning. Mueske’s teaching strategies include experiential learning, student projects, guest lectures, concept mapping and undergraduate research. He employs an array of instruments to obtain his students’ reaction to his teaching and course activities.

The other Outstanding Educators, by institution, are Anoka-Ramsey Community College – Pamela Fauskee and Mark Omodt; Anoka Technical College – Lisa Hubbard and Diana Ostrander; Central Lakes College – Steven Anderson and Martha Kuehn; Century College – Michelle Blesi; Dakota County Technical College – Jill Behnke; Hennepin Technical College – Muriel Kruggel and Mike Rudolph; Inver Hills Community College – Pamela Fergus and Richard Jewell; Lake Superior College – Paul Richgruber and Barb Struck; Minneapolis Community and Technical College – Hafed Bouassida and Jane Leach; Minnesota State Community and Technical College – Bill Evans and Dixie Fjeld; Minnesota West Community and Technical College – Robert Arp; Normandale Community College - Kristina Bigalk, Brooks Herrboldt, Linda Raasch and Martha Wittstruck; Northeast Higher Education District-Mesabi Range Community and Technical College – Monica Pavek; North Hennepin Community College – Peng Zhao; Pine Technical College – Ann Boldt; Ridgewater College – Allen Balay; Riverland Community College – Heidi Schara; Rochester Community and Technical College – Chad Israelson; Saint Paul College – Aaron Bommarito and Nathan Sartain; St. Cloud Technical and Community College – Susan Engel and Eric McAllister.