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Although she has consistently been praised for her hard work as a teacher, mentor and researcher, Jane Beiswenger says she was very surprised to learn she had received the University of Wyoming's Ellbogen Lifetime Teaching Award.
"Perhaps shocked is the better term," says Beiswenger, who in 1972 began her career at UW as an assistant researcher and since 1993 has worked as a senior lecturer in the Department Zoology and Physiology.
But the award, which recognizes sustained teaching excellence for the length of one's career, came as no surprise to Beiswenger's colleagues.
Mark Lyford, director of the UW's biology program, says Beiswenger's record is "impressive and influential."
"Her contributions in biology education across the country reflect her enthusiastic and unceasing commitment toward improving education and student learning," Lyford says. "Her lifelong efforts truly reflect the nature of this award."
Patricia McClurg, dean of the College of Education, describes
Beiswenger as "intelligent, reflective, unassuming, dedicated -- with a
core as solid as steel."
"Her long-term, unwavering commitment to teaching excellence has positively influenced science education at all levels in Wyoming and her efforts will leave a mark for many, many years to come," she says.
McClurg observes how Beiswenger developed classes to appeal to elementary education majors and said that, because of those classes, her influence has trickled down to elementary school students across the nation.
Many graduate students say Beiswenger influenced them to pursue a career in teaching. Brianna Schoessow, who worked as Beiswenger's teaching assistant, says, "Jane has been more than just my mentor; she has, and always will be, my number one role model. As a future biology instructor, I aim to follow her example."
Beiswenger has developed new courses, including online instruction, created lab manuals and has served on the Science and Mathematics Teaching Center's advisory board to help critique and review grant proposals and programs. One aspect of her teaching career that was strongly noted by all who nominated her was her dedication and work toward creating and tailoring classes to effectively reach out to non-major students.
Kristen Leis, one such non-major student, says, "She was the best science professor I have had in terms of adapting herself to non-major students' learning styles. She truly makes an effort to help students understand science as well as finding it enjoyable and relevant to their everyday lives."
Beiswenger says, "My most satisfying moments as a teacher were when a student would say, ‘Oh, I get it, science isn't as hard as I thought it would be,' or ‘Wow, I can do this science stuff.'"
She says she also enjoyed seeing students grow from wary and uncertain to becoming quite comfortable with the scientific process.
"These students will use science all of their lives, and that, to me, is what teaching science is all about," she says.
Recognition of her teaching ability is nothing new. In 2004, she received the Beatrice Gallatin Beuf Golden Apple Award recognizing teaching excellence in freshman-level courses in the UW College of Arts and Sciences.
Beiswenger earned a B.A. degree from Westminster College (1963), an M.S. degree from the University of Michigan (1965) and a Ph.D. from the University of Wyoming (1987).