Eastern Mennonite University’s recipients of the annual Excellence in Teaching Awards for 2022 are:
- in the Tenured Faculty category, Ron Shultz, PhD, professor of education,
- in the Pre-tenure Faculty category, M. Esther Showalter, instructor and program director,
- in the Adjunct Instructor category, Bonnie Fisher, instructor of psychology.
The award honors the gifts of faculty across all the positional categories of employment. Criteria include impact on students, effective teaching practices, subject knowledge and continual growth, including a commitment to professional and pedagogical development.
The selection process began with nominations from the campus community. A committee appointed by the Faculty Senate reviewed the nominations and selected the honorees.
“We have great teachers here at EMU. Ron, Maria Esther, and Bonnie, much gratitude was expressed for the ways you go above and beyond in your service to students and this learning community,” said Professor Tim Seidel, who co-chaired the committee. “It was such a privilege to read through all of the nominations and get just a small glimpse into all of the incredible work our teachers are doing at EMU—very inspiring and encouraging.”
“Thanks again to the Selection Committee and to the Faculty Senate for organizing this award,” continues Seidel. “And to all the teachers in the audience, keep up the good work. We’re only here because of you.”
Tenured Faculty: Ron Shultz, PhD
Shultz is an assistant professor in teacher education and the coordinator for the PK-6 program, as well as the field placement coordinator for the department. He has been teaching at EMU since 2011.
Ron does an excellent job at modeling an energetic and kind teacher, says one student, recalling a time when he modeled a morning meeting in a first grade classroom. He had all 8 students sit in a circle on the carpet and he played his guitar and sang a welcome song.
“Ron goes above and beyond as a professor,” said another student. “He is everything a professor should be. He is kind, thoughtful, and easy to talk to. He provides excellent and honest feedback in a timely manner while being encouraging and understanding at the same time.”
Another says, “Overall, I’ll be forever grateful for Ron’s impact in my education. Without sounding too dramatic, I would follow Ron to the edge of the world. If there was nothing good to come out of my experience at EMU except for Ron, I would be satisfied with that.”
Shultz was honored to receive the award. “Becoming a teacher was a childhood ambition for me, which I prefer to think of as a calling,” he says. “God has blessed me with the distinct opportunity and immense responsibility to help prepare future educators. Effective teaching requires investing in the relationship with our students. I am so encouraged by the next generation of teachers who have come through our program, and to see the difference that they are making in the lives of their students in our local schools, across the country, and around the world.”
Shultz earned a doctoral degree from George Mason University with a focus on teacher education and multicultural/multilingual education, with a PK-8 teaching certification, a master’s degree in education from Millersville University, and a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts studies from Eastern Mennonite University.
Pre-tenure Faculty: M. Esther Showalter
Showalter is an instructor and program director in the Language and Literature Department.
Students recognize the enthusiasm and personal care Showalter brings to the classroom to her teaching of language and culture. “Maria Esther is one of the most joyful and enthusiastic professors that I have had. Even learning Spanish grammar can be fun when Maria Esther is teaching it. If we didn’t understand something, she would find new ways to explain it to us and encourage us to keep trying until we got it.”
“I wasn’t scared to make mistakes as she would encourage us and lead us to the correct answer,” says another student. “She also went out of her way to get to know her students personally. She would always ask questions about my life and my job and she was open about her life as well. I remember her sharing a story with me about why she became a teacher and growing up in Bolivia. Her class felt very personal and welcoming, and if my schedule would allow, I would take every course taught by Maria Esther.”
Yet another student says, “Her contribution to EMU deserves to be celebrated.”
“Teaching Spanish is one of the biggest gifts I can give to my students,” says Showalter. “I love teaching about my culture, giving the students the skills to communicate in another language, and opening a door to learning about the beauty of the diversity in the Hispanic culture. Learning a language takes a lot of time and dedication. I am grateful to my students for their commitment and perseverance on this rewarding journey. Seeing my students grow so much in just one semester empowers me to continue giving my best every day. I am blessed to be part of this community where I can develop my gifts and be surrounded by colleagues and students whom I love very much and with whom I have a great time.”
Showalter earned a master’s degree in adult education from George Mason University and a bachelor’s degree in English with minors in Spanish and French from the Universidad Autonoma Gabriel Rene Moreno, Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
Adjunct Instructor: Bonnie Fisher
Fisher began teaching at EMU in 2019. She teaches courses in theories of personality, social psychology, and interpersonal relationship skills.
“Bonnie is the true definition of a ray of sunshine,” says one student. “Her personality lights up a room and her classes are always my favorite. I view Bonnie not only as one of my favorite professors, but as a friend. Overall, she is just a prime example of someone who is meant to work with people because of how charismatic and loving she is.”
“Her teaching methods are effective, she is very open-minded, and she is able to talk about sensitive topics that make me feel seen as a person of color,” said another student. “She cares for her students, is amicable, kind, and generous.”
“She makes her classroom a safe space for everyone,” says another student. “As a person of color, she made me feel welcome and understood, so I really appreciate the fact that she is at EMU. She is the embodiment of kindness and love for others.”
Fisher speaks highly of her students, in turn. “Teaching psychology students at EMU is the greatest joy,” she says. “I am an adjunct along with my full time work because I love teaching and interacting with these amazing humans. They are full of life and wisdom, a group of world changers.
She also addresses her own whiteness, privilege and social standing in each class that she teaches: “BIPOC students at a predominantly white university do not always have professors that will speak in direct support of them—I will always be that instructor,” says Fisher. “Diving into difficult, real-life topics with these bright students with compassion and empathy at the root of all my teaching.”
Fisher earned a master’s degree in psychology: college student personnel administration from James Madison University and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Eastern Mennonite University.
This year’s Selection Committee members were Carrie Bert, athletics representative; Cindi Boyer, Student Government Association representative; Marti Eads, faculty, 2021 awardee; Daniel Showalter, faculty, 2020 awardee; Leda Werner, Student Life representative); and Andrew Suderman and Timothy Seidel, co-chairing the committee as Faculty Senate representatives.
The committee received 54 nominations for 35 different teachers, with 83% of nominations coming from students.