Two professors were recognized by the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Mississippi for excellence in classroom teaching and concern for students’ welfare.
Jason Klodt, associate professor of modern languages, is the 2010 Liberal Arts Outstanding Teacher of the Year. Lou Haney, assistant professor of art, is the recipient of the 2010 Cora Lee Graham Award for Outstanding Teaching of Freshmen. Klodt and Haney were recognized during the College’s commencement ceremony, had their names added to award plaques in the dean’s office and received $1,000 apiece.
“Dr. Klodt is an extraordinary teacher and is most deserving of this important award,” said Glenn Hopkins, dean of liberal arts. “Lou Haney is responsible for the freshmen experience for many students taking art courses. Her enthusiasm and dedication to helping freshmen succeed in that all-important first year make her a wonderful choice for this award recognizing outstanding teaching of freshmen.”
A student teaching evaluation survey from last fall asked, “How would you rate the instructor’s overall performance in the course?” “Eighty-three percent of students in Klodt’s Spanish 321 class responded ‘Superior’ and 16 percent responded ‘Excellent,'” Hopkins said. “Compared to the norms of 53.8 percent and 26.2 percent, respectively, these are extraordinarily high percentages. All of his classes look like this.”
Klodt, who joined the faculty in 2002, teaches courses in Spanish conversation and composition, culture and literature. He previously taught at Michigan State University and has traveled extensively throughout Europe and Latin America.
“I am humbled and grateful,” said Klodt, whose research interest is Spanish cinema. “Teaching requires careful planning, of course, but I am most engaged by the perspectives that students contribute to class discussions. Giving students an active role and responsibility in their education is challenging, but it is enormously rewarding.”
When students make assertions in the classroom, Klodt challenges them to explain what they mean and they are able to do so, said Donald Dyer, chair and professor of modern languages.
“All of this takes place in a stress-free environment,” Dyer said. “Students are totally engaged in the work and eager to learn. He is the best of the best, the master teacher and the students’ advocate.”
A UM faculty member since 2007, Haney teaches 100-level courses in art. She has taught at St. Patrick’s Parish School in Australia, Watkins College of Art and Design in Nashville and Tusculum College in Greeneville, Tenn.
“First-year students have an enthusiasm for learning that is quite endearing,” said Haney, who has had solo exhibitions in California, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia. “One of my favorite classes to teach is beginning drawing. Teaching someone to draw is as powerful as teaching someone to read.”
Haney said she thinks of UM as “a little big school” because it has the advantages of a large university with the collegiality of a small school. “I get to know my students as individuals,” Haney said. “I am able to watch them grow and mature throughout the semester and see them evolve as artists during their college career.”
Sheri Fleck Rieth, chair and associate professor of art, said Haney loves to teach, especially foundations students.
“Whether they are students who have never had an art class or those who have some experience, she gives each one her time, encourages their efforts and cultivates their curiosity,” Rieth said. “The report from students is that she is kind and respectful and yet presses them toward higher standards. I agree with their assessment as she is a strong and productive member of our faculty as well.”
In the honorees’ nomination letters, students praised them for their exceptional service and ability to stimulate the intellect.
“[Klodt] is, when the situation calls for it, kind, patient, understanding, hilarious and stern. He is always unafraid, brilliant and a little bit crazy,” wrote one student student.
“Lou arrives in the classroom ready to go to work,” wrote a student of Haney’s. “She is not an easy professor, as she demands us to deliver, but she is fair and she is thorough. She pushes us toward discovering our own success.”
In 1984, Cora Lee Graham of Union City, Tenn., established an endowment at UM and directed that proceeds from her gift be used to “help retain better professors who teach the freshman classes” in the College of Liberal Arts. The Liberal Arts Outstanding Teacher of the Year award was first awarded in 1985. Criteria for both awards include excellence in class instruction, intellectual stimulation of students and concern for students’ welfare.