Elmhurst Presents President’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching

May 30, 2019 | by the Office of Marketing and Communications

Pictured from left: President Troy D. VanAken, Thomas Sawyer and John Jeffrey

Elmhurst College recently presented the 36th Annual President’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching to computer science professor John Jeffrey and associate psychology professor Thomas Sawyer.

The President’s Award was among a number of awards, research grants, promotions and other achievements that were recognized during the Founders’ Faculty Awards Dinner on May 17.

“Congratulations to all of the faculty who were recognized for their many achievements this past year,” said President Troy D. VanAken. “They demonstrate their incredible commitment to students in everything they do, and it’s wonderful to see that commitment recognized not only by national rankings organizations like U.S. News, but more importantly, by our students.”

Each year two faculty are selected to receive the President’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching. The award is a testament to a professor’s contributions to the education of Elmhurst students. Student organizations nominate faculty members for the award and provide support for their nominations. Members of the Faculty Development Committee then make the final decision.

Professor Jeffrey, who also serves as chair of the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems, joined the College in 1983. In nominating him, students spoke glowingly of the culture he has cultivated among students within the major, providing an exceptional educational experience that not only prepares students for their professional careers but also makes them proud to be Elmhurst College students.

“While Dr. Jeffrey has the reputation of having hard classes, his positive attitude and excitement for the material keeps the computer science students coming back for more—no matter how challenging,” students said. “He has given us the skills and spread his passion so that one day we too can be leaders in industry and graduate school.”

Jeffrey said he was inspired by his students’ words, and was honored to be among the faculty who were nominated to receive the award. “The fact that so many students throughout Elmhurst College took the time to nominate many faculty members is another indication that we have excellent faculty members and very dedicated students. There are not enough words to express how appreciative I am to be part of my students’ educational journey.”

Sawyer has served the College since 1998, teaching courses on employee selection procedures, performance appraisal and other topics. Students complimented “his enthusiasm for teaching and his care for his students,” adding that “in every interaction he has been sure to ask how our studies are going, even when we no longer have him as a professor.” Members of the Faculty Development Committee were particularly impressed with his willingness to go out of his way to give additional instruction, translate academic content to students’ lives, and affirm the knowledge and experiences students bring to the classroom.

In their nomination letter, students said: “A great professor not only teaches their students but also engages them in the subject, pulls them into the learning process, encourages them when they need help, and inspires them to go beyond the status quo. A great professor knows the strengths and weaknesses of their students and allows them to improve, not only academically but also personally. A great professor makes learning fun but also truly enjoys the subject themselves. Dr. Tom Sawyer is a great professor.”

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