The University of Arizona honors Norton School professor Susan Silverberg Koerner
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences lauds nearly 20 years of teaching excellence
TUCSON, Oct. 15 — The UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences honored Dr. Susan Silverberg Koerner with the CALS Outstanding Faculty Teaching Award at the University's Fall Honors Convocation on Oct. 16, 2009.
"I'm really honored to receive this award," Koerner said. "We have many, many excellent instructors in the Academic Program of Family Studies and Human Development and in the Norton School and across the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in general, so this really is an honor."
Making a difference
Since Koerner joined the UA in 1990, students and peers alike have acclaimed Koerner as an exceptional instructor and mentor — the former benefiting from her classes and guidance, the latter often coming to her for advice on how to make their own classes better.
Dr. Soyeon Shim, Director of the Norton School, nominated Koerner for the award as someone who "epitomizes the ideal professor." "She is a teacher of rare and sustained excellence," Shim explained, "one who's had a remarkably positive influence on the lives and careers of many students." Indeed, comments from just a handful of students and peers paint the reach and depth of her impact:
"one of the most effective instructors I have had"
"fully committed to the successes of her students"
"models a teaching style that challenges students to reach their potential"
"more so than other professors, she has helped me to apply materials I have learned to real-life situations"
"her expectations made me work harder than in other classes"
"exemplifies a rare dedication to teaching and research"
"I would not be where I am today without Dr. Koerner's exceptional teaching and mentoring"
Such praise stems, in part, from Koerner's love of working one-on-one with students as much as possible, with undergraduates in office hours or through assistantships and with graduate students on research and dissertations. "It's a great experience to see students first starting their masters degrees with all their skills and then leave as fully capable researchers," Koerner said.
Among a battalion of comments like those above in student evaluations (Koerner's effectiveness ratings consistently top the mean for both graduate and undergraduate teaching), the theme of "enriched learning" surfaces repeatedly — having students don blur glasses and finger splints before tackling a child-proof medicine bottle to simulate failing eyesight and stiff joints in her issues on aging class, for example.
Going the extra mile to bring textbook and lecture information to life — through hands-on learning, small group activities, classroom guests, direct observation, videos, field assignments and more — Koerner consciously creates a variety of paths into the material she teaches, recognizing that students learn in different ways. It's little wonder that many UA graduates look back on a Koerner class as their most memorable.
As a complement to her teaching, Koerner's research explores issues in aging — her current work focuses on caregivers for the elderly in Hispanic communities — in hopes that her studies will not only advance other research but also bring critical information to professionals working with caregivers and aging populations.
Her Daily Understanding of Caregivers Study looks at the day-to-day lives of caregivers and how factors like gender, personality, cultural background and religious beliefs may shape a person's experience of caring for an elder adult and associated physical ailments, mental health and stress.
The study holds a distinguished place in this area of scholarship as one of few in which researchers are foregoing "snapshot" data in favor of the deeper understanding that can come with observing and gathering information from caregivers daily, over time.
About Dr. Susan Silverberg Koerner
As the Fitch Nesbitt Professor of Family and Consumer Sciences, Koerner teaches graduate seminars on families and adolescents as well as undergraduate classes on issues in aging and infancy/childhood development.
She serves as director of graduate studies for the Family Studies and Human Development division of the Norton School and has influenced the education of all students at the Norton School at a broad level through lead roles in molding new degree program options, new ways of assessing student outcomes and overall curriculum and program development.
Koerner has served as dissertation advisor for a number of doctoral students and regularly mentors students at all levels in independent studies, honors theses and career development. She is an affiliated faculty member of the UA's Graduate Program in Gerontology and holds a courtesy appointment in the Department of Psychology. Her research has been published in Developmental Psychology, Family Relations, Journal of Family Psychology and a number of other leading academic journals.
About the Norton School
The John and Doris Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences within The University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences houses the Terry J. Lundgren Center for Retailing, the Frances McClelland Institute for Children, Youth and Families and the Take Charge America Institute for Consumer Financial Education and Research. The Norton School offers undergraduate, masters and doctoral programs in family studies and human development as well as retailing and consumer sciences.
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