Four WCU Faculty Members in Running for Chancellor’s Teaching Award

Four Western Carolina University faculty members are in the running for WCU’s top teaching honor, the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award, which will be presented during the spring General Faculty Meeting and Awards Convocation on Friday, April 27.

Established in 1976, the award is the university’s highest honor in recognition of superior teaching. Winners are chosen through a two-stage process that includes nominations by students and faculty members, and a review of teaching techniques and portfolios by an awards committee. A total of 168 faculty members were nominated for this year’s award. The recipient will receive a $1,000 honorarium and engraved plaque.

The nominees are:

  1. James Costa, assistant professor of biology, who began teaching at Western in 1996. Costa earned his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Georgia, and his primary scholarly focus is on insect population genetics.

    “I find that much of the excitement of the academic life comes from trying to rise to the challenge of finding the approach, the wavelength, that best resonates with my students in any particular course and term — the approach to best lead them to appreciate the beauty and relevance of the material, be it molecular genetics, evolution or insect biology,” Costa said. “My research and other scholarly activities are central to this process. The excitement of doing science, of making new discoveries, is for me a catalyst for exciting my students about the natural world. Teaching biology in real time — that’s what it’s all about.”

  2. Kathy Ivey, assistant professor of mathematics and computer science, has been at Western since 1994. Ivey received her master’s degree from Oregon State University and her doctoral degree from Washington State University. Her specialty is secondary and collegiate mathematics education.

    “My main goal as a teacher is to provide the framework that allows my students to grow and to improve their skills, knowledge and understanding of mathematics,” Ivey said. “This framework includes a variety of assignments, an inclusive classroom atmosphere, and respect for each student. My approach to teaching can be summed up by four principles: I like my students; I want them to succeed; I believe that they are capable; and I push them to give their best effort.”

  3. Terry Nienhuis, associate professor of English, began teaching at Western in 1972. Nienhuis holds a doctoral degree in English from the University of Michigan, where he also earned his master’s degree. His focus areas include 18th-century English literature, modern and contemporary drama, and film studies. His teaching philosophy is: “We teach for the moment and we teach for a lifetime.”

    “I think of myself as a facilitator who individualizes learning objectives as much as possible, helping students discover what they need and want to learn within the context of my courses,” he said. “In the largest of contexts, I help students acquire learning attitudes and habits that they can transfer to any sphere of their future life.”

  4. LeVon Wilson, department head and associate professor of business law, is in his 10th year of teaching at Western. His areas of interest are constitutional and employment law. Wilson received his doctorate in law from North Carolina Central University.

    “My goals are to assist students in developing and enhancing their analytical and critical thinking skills; developing their oral and written communication skills; enhancing library skills while developing an awareness of the availability of information and how to interpret it; and, ultimately, contributing to the development of and appreciation for life-long learning. Learning can and should be fun,” Wilson said.