UW-Green Bay long has been recognized for its teaching excellence, and the year 2011 was no exception. The University’s Regan A.R. Gurung, a professor of Human Development; along with UW-Green Bay’s Professional Program in Education, both earned top statewide teaching awards from the UW System Board of Regents. The accolades are appreciated, honored educators say, but better still are the joys that come from the classroom.
“I think what I love about teaching the most is when you go in there and when you see students getting it,” said Gurung, the Ben J. & Joyce Rosenberg Professor of Human Development and Psychology at UW-Green Bay. “And I think what I also like is the challenge of making sure that your students can get it. … Whenever I say something, you can tell from body language whether somebody’s getting it or not.”
The Regents award winners make sure students get it in a variety of time-honored and innovative ways. For Gurung, it’s a focus on personal relationships — he spends hours memorizing student names between the first and second days of class — as well as a careful study of the science, and the art, of teaching.
“Something else that helps, too, is the UW-Green Bay community is one where the people who are here, the faculty who are here, love to teach,” Gurung said. “And they love to talk about teaching, and they love to think about new ways to make teaching better.”
Gurung’s colleagues in Education can attest to that, and say it’s a combination of research, relationships and hands-on learning that makes their program a success. It’s a formula that prepares UW-Green Bay teaching students, and puts them in high demand for jobs once they graduate, said Kathy Van Pay, principal at Heritage Elementary School in nearby De Pere.
“Within the program at (UW)GB, many of the people who are teaching courses have come from administration, have come from classrooms,” Van Pay said. “They understand current topics in education, what local school districts are doing and using — so they can incorporate many of the theoretical and practical aspects into the education that the teachers are receiving.”
What’s more, Education offers innovative programs including Phuture Phoenix, which boosts college aspirations for elementary students from low-income schools; and the Center for First Nations Studies, which is committed to the study of American Indian culture, philosophy, history, language and more. It’s all about building bridges, says Education Chair Tim Kaufman.
“Our focus on relationships,” Kaufman said, “the connections that we have with the schools around the area, throughout Northeast Wisconsin, really sets us apart.”
It’s a distinction the students — and indeed the larger UW System — know well.