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Peter Parolin: Committed to UW Students

April 29, 2013
Peter Parolin

When fellow faculty members in the University of Wyoming Department of English try to describe the teaching style of Associate Professor Peter Parolin, “deft” and “amazing” are words that repeatedly emerge. That’s no small accolade, considering the large number of the department’s faculty members who have received teaching awards in the past. They know that Parolin stands above the rest.

For his efforts, Parolin has received the university’s John P. Ellbogen Meritorious Classroom Teaching Award, established in 1977 by businessman John P. "Jack" Ellbogen to "foster, encourage and reward excellence in classroom teaching at UW.”

Other recipients this year are Doug Russell, associate professor in the Department of Art; and Naomi Ward, assistant professor in the departments of Molecular Biology and Botany.

“I have never seen a faculty member who is better at engaging a whole class in discussion. Peter seems to do nothing special, but he does,” wrote fellow Professor Duncan Harris. “He does not hesitate to call on students, and he uses their names and some reference to a past contribution to motivate them to speak. He cares enough about his students to remember what they have said, and that concern speaks volumes about Peter's commitment to his students.”

A former department head, Janice Harris, praises Parolin’s skill at engaging students, whether he is in a small classroom or a large auditorium.

“As they work through the knots, he is rigorous and demanding. He sets a high bar for the students' comprehension and writing. What he gives in return is a thorough preparation of the material at hand; a sincere commitment to the students' learning; and a warm-hearted affection for them as human beings.”

His students excel in such an engaging environment.

“Dr. Parolin also possesses that very rare quality of being able to stimulate his brightest students while still reaching and validating those who struggle more,” wrote Bob Weatherford, who was taught by Parolin as both an undergraduate and a graduate student. “He learns all of his students’ names early on and then calls on those too timid to offer their own responses so that class discussions are not dominated by the confident and loud types. The man is truly miraculous in a classroom, and everyone can feel that and benefits from it.”

Students also appreciate Parolin’s sincerity. Lindsey Grubbs, a student who took part in a study abroad summer class of Shakespeare in England and Italy, noted, “His enthusiasm was infectious; his love of the theatre was obvious. Peter managed to make the class intellectually challenging and stimulating while balancing the thrill and distraction of traveling to foreign countries. The course was one of the most fascinating I have ever taken.”

Such respect is reflected in student evaluations.

One student noted, “Dr. Parolin is by far one of the best professors I've had during my time at the university. His interaction with students is exemplary, his assignments are clear and fair, and his class is enjoyable and informative.”

Parolin earned a B.A. degree in English and History (1988) at the University of British Columbia, and earned both his M.A. and Ph.D. in English at the University of Pennsylvania.

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