Presidential Teacher Award continues to recognize outstanding professors


Benjamin Waddell, Jacob Heaton, Seth Spiva Garrett Foster

Dr. Benjamin Waddell reviews the presentation of his students, left to right, Jacob Heaton, Seth Spiva and Garrett Foster.

In the School of Business, Liz Thomas-Hensley's office door seems always open. Dr. Robert Astalos can often be seen outside the planetarium instructing students from elementary age through college. When Dr. Benjamin Waddell speaks to students, his tone has a respectful and supportive quality.

The three Adams State University professors received the 2014 Presidential Teacher Award. All replied much the same when they first heard of the recognition, "surprised and honored."

"It is not transparent to us if students think we are doing a good job," said Waddell, assistant professor of sociology. "Receiving this award makes me want to be a better teacher." Coming from a rural, working-class background, Waddell believes he has much in common with many of his students. "Students bring a lot to the classroom. I attempt to incorporate what they already know."

Astalos, associate professor of physics and director of the Zacheis Planetarium, agrees with Waddell. "The best lesson I have learned – never stop learning from students." Astalos realized he wanted to teach his final year in graduate school. "I knew being a teacher would be more rewarding than a career in research." After finishing his undergraduate degree, he worked for IBM and Lockheed Martin; they weren't the jobs for him. "I worked for the weekend." Now, his focus is students. "I find teaching most rewarding. It makes me happy to get up in the morning.

Liz Thomas-Hensley, Mario Gar

Mario Garcia appreciates the individual attention of Liz Thomas-Hensley in her office.

Having received her undergraduate degree from Adams State in 2005, Thomas-Hensley, assistant professor of marketing and MBA Program director, knew she wanted to become a professor by her junior year. "I wanted to teach like the professors who got the students attention." She received her MBA from Arizona State and will complete her Ph.D. in August. She started teaching at Adams State in 2008. Before entering higher education she had a knack for relating to individual learning styles and personalities in the business world. "It transferred to the classroom."

The excitement of sharing knowledge and telling stories, adding to "book text," keeps Thomas-Hensley motivated. Often students will ask her for help writing their resumes and practicing job interviews. "There is such satisfaction when they tell you they got a job."

Dr. Robert Astalos, Chris Morley, Ben Goldsworthy, Gia Johnson

Dr. Robert Astalos and, left to right, Chris Morley, Ben Goldsworthy, and Gia Johnson, discuss aspects of astronomy while calibrating a telescope.

Astalos, who started at Adams State in 2005, finds it exciting when a student suddenly understands the material or lesson. "It is really cool when those aha moments happen." Waddell agrees, "On any given day you can turn a student on to new ways of thinking."

Thomas-Hensley believes in Adams State's mission to serve students at all levels. "I embrace Adams State's standards." She appreciates helping students progress and develop the necessary skills needed to succeed. "I still feel teary-eyed at every graduation."

Finishing his third year at Adams State, Waddell believes the campus is a perfect fit for him. "The small class size and real ability to work closely with students is the ideal environment for my teaching style." He came expecting to motivate students to follow their passions. "It is real cool to have the opportunity to help students pursue their goals."

Now in its seventh year, the Adams State University Presidential Teacher Award acknowledges professors dedication to their students and recognizes outstanding undergraduate teaching, advising, and mentoring.

In the fall, Dr. Michael Mumper, senior vice president for Enrollment Management/Program Development, formed a committee of undergraduate students, Rachel Heaton, Kat McLaughlin, and Pauline "Tori" Vigil. They requested Adams State undergraduate students nominate professors who they feel best exemplify what it means to be a great college teacher. After receiving the nominations, the student committee conducted interviews and classroom observations to determine the award recipients.

Each Presidential Teachers will receive $1500 to support his or her professional development and the opportunity to teach a special Presidential Teacher Course during the next academic year.