2019 Excellence-in-Teaching Citations
College of Education
Courtney Chamberlain is a PhD student in the College of Education, studying testing accommodations for students with disabilities. In preparing tomorrow’s teachers to be effective in their classrooms, she utilizes strong content expertise, high expectations and a passion to improve the lives of future students with disabilities. In the 18 sections of seven different classes she has taught — seven as lead instructor, 11 as a teaching assistant — she actively builds inclusive learning communities where her students are engaged, invested, motivated, valued and inspired to transform their teaching.
Chamberlain’s teacher-education students have articulated that her assignments led to the creation of projects during their practicum that had direct and measurable benefits to their students. Her students demonstrated that they could dramatically improve the reading outcomes for at-risk students who received tutoring.
In a course focused on teaching students effective behavioral intervention plans when their students exhibit challenging behaviors in the classroom, a student explained, “I utilized her instructions to provide the best types of intervention for a challenging student, who was then able to participate longer in class and sustain a more positive relationship among his peers.”
Chamberlain exemplifies a scholar-practitioner. She has published five scholarly articles as a graduate student, two as lead author and has presented scholarly research at the National Association of School Psychologists National Convention, her field’s most prestigious conference, for four consecutive years. She models how to use data to inform teaching practices, having thoroughly mastered the material she is teaching. She listens to her students and frequently asks them to provide feedback on her teaching to hone its effectiveness.
For her exemplary teaching practices, passion in her students and her commitment to applying her research to improve the lives of students in the classroom, Courtney Chamberlain is most deserving of the Michigan State University Excellence-in-Teaching Citation.
Kathleen T. Mellano
College of Education
A PhD student in the Department of Kinesiology, Kathleen T. Mellano bases her teaching philosophy, which is grounded in scholarly research on relationships and achievement motivation, on building a professional relationship with each of her students. Her methodical approach to creating positive interpersonal connections with and among the students in her courses contributes to the collaborative learning environment that characterizes her classes.
One of her students captured this feature of her teaching, “Ms. Mellano’s classroom was where I experienced the best class camaraderie ever. She fostered an environment where we could feel comfortable with each other and also able to do successful group work — and have fun doing it.” Another student noted that, “Ms. Mellano did a great job making a topic that I really wasn’t interested in enjoyable. She is easily one of my favorite college instructors.”
Mellano has taught many courses in the Department of Kinesiology focused on health and wellness, movement, physical activity principles in elementary education, measurement in kinesiology and sport and exercise psychology.
Mellano’s research explores the psychosocial aspects of sport and physical activity. Specifically, she examines peer relationships and the motivational climate of sport teams as shaped by teammates/peers. Her adviser states that Mellano’s work demonstrates scholarly leadership in conceptualization through execution, interpretation and output production in an understudied area that has much potential to advance critical knowledge.
Outside the classroom, Mellano has added outreach, professional service and applied consulting activity to her doctoral experience. Her service includes evaluating undergraduate research, serving on the Kinesiology Graduate Student Organization board and representing graduate students on departmental committees.
For her enthusiasm and commitment to her students, her passion for learning and exemplary teaching, Kathleen T. Mellano is most deserving of the Michigan State University Excellence-In-Teaching Citation.
College of Music
Adrienne Rodriguez’s gift as a teacher is building rich learning communities by developing relationships with her students and helping them form meaningful relationships with one another. Within these communities, she enables her students to find their voices as teachers by modeling how to listen, to question and to disrupt in ways that encourage them to think deeply about what they bring into the classroom and how that affects what they do as teachers.
College of Music faculty have expressed that they consider Rodriguez a professional colleague because of her work in the classroom. One of them lauded her skills as a teacher, noting that she is able to take students who are reluctant musicians and help them develop and embrace their musicianship so that they feel comfortable engaging children musically in their own classrooms. Her students support this assessment, with one noting that Rodriguez “made it clear that music is for everyone and reinforced that everyone, regardless of their limited musical experience, could teach a classroom how to sing a song.” Another of her students stated, “She has had a huge impact on me, my career trajectory, my love for music and music education and my feelings of self-efficacy as a music educator.”
Rodriguez has distinguished herself as a scholar in early childhood music education, studying the role that early childhood music classes have on the musical interactions in families. She recently co-wrote an article published in Action, Criticism and Theory for Music Education, a refereed journal, and was invited to write an article on musical parenting for the International Journal for Community Music that will be published this fall. This past summer, she presented a paper at the Early Childhood Music Symposium for the International Society for Music Teacher Education, and has previously presented at numerous national, regional and state conferences.
A teacher and scholar who will leave a mark on the music education profession, Adrienne Rodriguez is a most deserving recipient of the Michigan State University Excellence-in-Teaching Citation.
Gregory J. Spray
College of Communication Arts and Sciences
A PhD candidate in the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, Gregory J. Spray trains student clinicians to become leaders within the field of speech language pathology. Because Spray has worked in clinical settings and across the lifespan in outpatient rehab, private practice, home care and skilled nursing facilities, he is able to provide authentic, clear examples of clinician–patient interactions to aid his teaching. He has utilized these previous clinical experiences to teach students advanced concepts and techniques for treating individuals, educating families and working with diverse populations. These techniques and approaches allow students to acquire and to synthesize advanced material prior to their clinical experiences. His students have stated that his teaching methods demonstrate the value of treating the whole person, not just a disorder.
Spray has taught eight classes at MSU, five as the lead instructor and three as co-instructor. He has also mentored undergraduate students who assist him with various research studies. In addition to these responsibilities, he has served as the department’s adviser to master’s students. Spray is actively involved with the Michigan Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the governing body of speech-language pathologists and audiologists for the state of Michigan, where he serves on the executive board as the president-elect.
Spray holds great scholarly promise. His research interests include the neural basis of developmental stuttering that may help diagnose and predict persistent forms. This past year, he received NIH funding to attend an fMRI course at the University of Michigan and the international Fluency Association World Congress in Hiroshima, Japan, where he presented two papers and gave a research presentation. He is currently writing an NIH training grant, has published three peer-reviewed articles in such journals as NeuroImage and Neuropsychologia and has submitted three more with an additional five in preparation.
Spray’s dedication to the department of communicative sciences and disorders, as well as the field of speech-language pathology and his students, makes him a most deserving recipient of the Michigan State University Excellence-In-Teaching Citation.
College of Arts and Letters
A PhD candidate, Bree Straayer-Gannon is a teacher who honors listening and relationships with the students and teachers she mentors. This listening extends to co-creation of course content and feedback structures for students to connect writing and educational spaces to their lives.
As one student said, “She created a space in which I was able to explore my own life through personal experiences and relationships, and then find peace within it. As a student that had experienced assault, then went through MSU’s reporting process, this was invaluable to me recovering as a person.” The care Straayer-Gannon conveys results in students using writing as a means to discover their stories and their place in past, present and future communities. As one of her students stated, “Ms. Straayer’s guidance helped me tap into a creative potential that I was not aware existed — turning me from someone who never thought her voice mattered into a writer.”
Straayer-Gannon is involved in the leadership and development of the First-Year Writing Conference, which highlights more than 700 students’ work.
Straayer-Gannon came to MSU having taught in community college and with immigrant and refugee populations. Her research interests include exploring the cultural identity and literacy practices among communities of Evangelical Christians and international students’ experiences. She is currently involved in a Humanities Without Walls interdepartmental research project that explores how international students use institutional resources as they move through the writing sequence. In her doctoral studies, Straayer-Gannon plans to continue her earlier work with the Christian community to learn more about literacy practice and its relationship to religious discourse and gender identity. She has published three articles and given more than 25 conference presentations, many of which were invited.
Through her commitment to her students and fellow teachers, Bree Straayer-Gannon has contributed to an ethos of care in her department, which, along with her scholarly accomplishments and promise make her a most deserving recipient of the Michigan State University Excellence-in-Teaching Citation.
College of Communication Arts and Sciences
Daniel Totzkay’s passion for learning in and outside the classroom comes from his desire to be the kind of teacher he always wanted throughout his time as a learner. Central to his teaching is the creation of a safe, welcoming and intellectually challenging learning environment that helps students make connections between the course material and their everyday lives. Totzkay believes learning can only occur when students are shown that their instructor cares and understands why they should care about the material being taught.
This philosophy, along with his previous teaching successes, drew his department’s attention. When an instructor was needed to teach gender communication, Totzkay was chosen for his depth of knowledge and sensitivity, aided by an interdisciplinary background that included a minor in women’s studies, an inclusive approach to diversity and an ability to frame conversations effectively. Totzkay designed the entire class and students responded positively. Praised as an engaging and approachable teacher and mentor, Totzkay held effective, difficult conversations with students on controversial issues that require thoughtfulness and empathy.
As one student stated, “Mr. Totzkay taught material in a very understandable way and always encouraged questions and opinions.” Another noted, “Mr. Totzkay’s ability to disseminate content and select the most meaningful pieces to illustrate his points were displayed class after class.” Many students cited him as the reason they plan to pursue graduate school.
Totzkay is a dedicated scholar. His research focuses on the communication of health and risk information to motivate prevention behaviors, especially regarding environmentally based breast cancer risks. He has authored or co-authored 23 conference presentations and six textbook chapters and peer-reviewed journal articles. He has worked on several grant-funded and MSU Extension projects to translate emerging science to the public.
For his excellent teaching and support for his students as well as his commitment to research and scholarly communication, Daniel Totzkay fully merits the honor inherent in the Michigan State University Excellence-in-Teaching Citation.