Teaching with clarity and focus, demanding students live up to their full potential, and demanding no less of herself have earned Marsha Fay Knight a reputation as one of the nation's most qualified teachers of dance. For these and other reasons that come as no surprise to her students and colleagues, Knight is an Ellbogen Meritorious Classroom Teaching Award-winner for 2007.
The other recipients are Alyson Hagy, associate professor in the Department of English; Allyn Ontko, assistant professor in the School of Pharmacy; Timothy Robinson, associate professor in the Department of Statistics; and Katrina Zook, associate professor in the Department of Music.
The awards are made possible by a fund established by Ellbogen to "foster, encourage and reward excellence in classroom teaching at UW." Winners are selected from a list nominated by students, and the awards are based entirely on classroom performance and helpfulness to students. A native of Worland, Ellbogen established an endowment for teaching awards in appreciation for his family and state's encouragement of education.
In addition to being nationally known for her knowledge of Renaissance and Baroque dance, reconstruction, and period movement, Knight is also recognized as a master teacher in the region, and teaches at festivals and classes in Colorado, Montana and Utah in the summer.
Opportunities for extended contact with students in rehearsing full or half-evening ballets such as “The Nutcracker,” “Inanna,” or “Coppelia” provide the contact and ideal teaching venue Knight values most. Knight took her work “Of a Mind” and five of UW's finest dance majors to the Kennedy Center for national showcasing through the American College Dance Festival Association in2006.
Margaret Wilson, an assistant professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance, notes that she advised a student at a UW Discovery Day who was trying to determine which university to choose. Wilson noted that "if they came to study with Marsha Knight, they would receive the best ballet training in this area of the country."
Wilson also says that Knight has been an extraordinary mentor for her by supporting her research "and setting a high standard for me to achieve in my teaching with her inexhaustible drive and her generosity, clarity, and professionalism."
Students echo Wilson's sentiments about Knight's professionalism and high standards. One student notes, "She really puts her whole self into teaching her class and she cares about the progress of each student. She inspires me to be a great dancer and to always give 100 percent."
Another student says, "Marsha is by far the best professor I have had at UW. Not only is she detailed, fair, knowledgeable, and inspiring, she is also a true professional of the study of ballet. I looked forward to this class every day and wished for more chances to receive instruction from someone so talented."
The student continues, "Professor Knight is excellent in providing constructive criticism and is aware enough of all students to provide positive feedback at just the right time. She was very organized and structured as well as fair with her grading. I only hope to achieve Marsha's success and teaching abilities in my lifetime."
Knight joined the University of Wyoming faculty in 1983 as a supply assistant professor, and became a full professor in 1998. She holds both an M.F.A. (1983) degree and bachelor's degree (1979) from the University of Utah.
Posted on Tuesday, May 01, 2007