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Past Winners of the Teacher of the Week

Donald Orth


The Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research (CIDER) recognizes Donald Orth, professor of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, for using a variety of teaching strategies that focus on authentic activities designed to encourage the development of self-regulated learning strategies in his students.

Donald Orth currently teaches Ichthyology, Stream Habitat Management, and First-Year Experience in Natural Resources and Environment. He frequently provides guest lessons for students in Fisheries Techniques and Principles of Fisheries and Wildlife Management.

Orth's teaching vision (see the Teaching Portfolio link, My Teaching Vision tab) describes his desire to nurture critical thinking skills in his students; the importance of mistake-making, idea sharing, collaboration, personal meaning-making, and providing opportunity for students to master concepts (rather than only cover content) in the learning process; and, the necessity and utility of formative and summative assessment of learning in order to track student learning and design instruction to meet their unique needs.

Orth achieves these objectives through creating a safe learning environment in which authentic learning experiences and collaboration among peers is vital. He explained i his teaching vision, "My teaching role varies from facilitator, organizer, expert, motivator, coach, questioner, and gatekeeper." He believes in his students' abilities to succeed, and also that he can learn from them just as they learn from him.

Orth received recognition as Outstanding Teacher from the College of Natural Resources and Environment in 2013, as well as previous awards as Outstanding Faculty and Certificate of Teaching Excellence.

His students are enthusiastic about his teaching excellence, and provided many positive comments on recent SPOT surveys. Speaking of his enthusiasm for education, and the interest he sparks in his students, several students noted: “I am very interested in fisheries as a result of this class!! [He] supplied a large amount of study aids that would help us to understand the material more” (an Ichthyology student, spring 2012); “Tons of examples, application, practicality, interesting lectures, and I could tell that he was passionate about not only the subject matter but the performance of his class” (an Ichthyology student, spring 2012); “[He] made information relevant and interesting” (an Ichthyology student, spring 2012); “Great class. I learned a lot” (an Ichthyology student, spring 2012); “I'm pleased to add Dr. Orth to a short list of very favorite professors at Virginia Tech” (an Ichthyology student, spring 2012); “Helpful to have hands on learning in lab. He made class very interesting and enjoyable, had artists come to class, [and] helped [me] realize the need for proper fish identification” (an Ichthyology student, spring 2013); and, “Ichthyology challenges a student to learn material and retain material in ways much different that your ordinary lecture class. Being a great ichthyologist takes years and years of studying species. I am glad I took this class because it made me explore new study techniques. I do not plan to stop studying ichthyology after this class” (an Ichthyology student, spring 2012); “[Dr. Orth] was passionate about the subject” (a Stream Habitat Management student, fall 2012).

Students also described Orth’s teaching and assessment practices: “[Dr. Orth] had narrated PowerPoint’s of the lectures online in case we missed class (an Ichthyology student, spring 2012); “[He] gave lots of feedback on assignments” (an Ichthyology student, spring 2012); “Regular quizzing schedules really made me keep up with the work which was good!”(an Ichthyology student, spring 2012); “[Dr. Orth] communicated information in an easy to understand manner” (an Ichthyology student, spring 2013); “Guided class discussions [and] some of the assignments given really made all the material come together” (a Stream Habitat Management student, fall 2012); “Prof. Orth provided us with the most relevant and new material on stream habitat management. We then participated as a class with discussions on the material. This class was not biased and looked at both sides of issues, also focusing on the reality of problems and solutions” (a Stream Habitat Management student, fall 2012); “Dr. Orth encouraged students to reflect upon projects and activities so that they would learn more from those activities and gain inquiry skills” (a first year experience student); “[Dr. Orth provided] a lot of one on one assistance” (a first year experience student); [He was] a really good teacher, and did well trying to get everyone to interact and participate. I was mostly helped by the ways he taught to plan out your college path” (a first year experience student); and “[Dr. Orth] related the new material to our own beliefs” (a first year experience student).


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