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Past Winners of the Teacher of the Week

Robert (Bob) Oliver


The Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research (CIDER) recognizes Robert (Bob) Oliver, assistant professor of Geography, for offering heartfelt and sincere invitation to students to engage in an intellectual conversation.

Dr. Oliver instructs a number of courses in the Department of Geography at a variety of levels. His "Introduction to Human Geography" routinely exceeds 200 students. Dr. Oliver also teaches upper level courses that examine urban issues. These courses frequently exceed 50 students and attract learners from a host of different disciplines.

Dr. Oliver encourages all participants to become actively involved in lectures and strives to help students imagine themselves as knowledgeable actors. He seeks to offer students opportunities for critical self-reflection on individual experiences, and aims to show students that their opinions and judgments matter, while challenging them to think about alternative viewpoints/arrangements.

Bob's course design varies, but each lecture generally begins with a simple question, after which he seeks to tease out the various nuances that complicate the matter of providing an answer. If you listen to him communicate with students, it is likely that you will hear him warn them to be careful with making statements/assertions of striking finality. At the same time, he encourages students to take risks and exercise courage, especially those students who are part of the honors residential courage, of which he is a Senior Fellow.

In order to increase the relevancy of his U.S. City class, Dr. Oliver has offered optional weekend trips incorporating case studies: two years ago he and his students traveled to New York City, and last year they visited Savannah. He routinely brings in outside "experts" to his class to enrich the learning environment. Recent visits include Chris Morrill (City Manager, Roanoke) and an on-location walking tour by Dr. Robert Lake (Rutgers) when his class was visiting New York City.

Bob received the College of Natural Resources and Environment Teaching Excellence Award in March 2012, and he has been recognized by Virginia Tech Panhellenic Council for his "superior work as a faculty member." A recent Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research (CIDER) "Thank a Teacher" expressed the following kind words: "I wish to thank you for the impact that you have had on my life and education in the past four months. You opened my eyes to so many things within the world that I had never even thought to investigate. Your sense of humor and passion for the subject matter made the course much more engaging and entertaining than any other educational setting I have experienced. I truly appreciate everything you have done” (anonymous student).

Tribute to Dr. Oliver’s dedication to his students, his office is littered with postcards and notes from former students who thank him for his efforts/passion, and prove that they have begun to realize that "our first understanding of space begins with the space of experience."


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