Past Winners of the Teacher of the Week
The Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research (CIDER) recognizes Gebremeskel Gebremariam, instructor of Economics, for being an inspirational, passionate, enthusiastic, and hard working instructor, and for a teaching philosophy anchored on the principles that effective teaching requires dedication, patience, diligence, enthusiasm, and intelligence on the side of the instructor.
Dr. Gebremariam has taught several economics courses in the Department of Economics at Virginia Tech, such as Principles of Macroeconomics (ECON 2006), Intermediate Microeconomics (ECON 3104), Growth and Development (ECON 4124), International Finance (ECON 4136), Money and Banking (ECON 3214), and Principles of Microeconomics (ECON 2005). He uses learner-centered pedagogy where many examples of his teaching philosophy are reflected. Dr. Gebremariam views teaching as an opportunity to help students develop skills and perspectives for understanding and solving real-world problems. He believes that students learn best when their instructor is enthusiastic and devotes time and energy to his students, listens patiently and answers his students’ questions, diligently delivers his ideas, and incorporates new ways of looking at issues. As an economics instructor, he also believes that teaching economics should aim at exposing students to a variety of concepts and theories, as well as presenting students with a powerful and rigorous way of thinking about real world situations in addition to analyzing the situations critically from the economic perspective.
To achieve these learning goals, at the beginning of each semester, Dr. Gebremariam prepares and delivers to his students a clear course syllabus for each course that he is assigned to teach. The course syllabi include all relevant information such as grading policy, attendance policy, missed exam policy, late paper policy, information about academic integrity, and etc. The first-day of class is allotted to discussion on the relevance of the syllabus to his students’ lives and his expectations for their performance, including what will be required of his students to succeed. He also shares his inspirational life story with his students.
When teaching, Dr. Gebremariam tries to connect with his students and create a welcoming, inclusive, and safe classroom environment. He has an enthusiastic attitude that creates a more positive learning environment for the students. He prepares informative, clear, and well-organized lectures, and illustrates economic theories using relevant real world situations. During each lecture, Dr. Gebremariam tries to capture the attention of the students from the start of the lecture and maintain it throughout the class period while using a mixture of PowerPoint slides, iPad and Splashtop, and chalkboard. He often uses the first few minutes of each class period to wrap up what was leaned in the previous period and to answer students’ questions from the previous lecture. Because Dr. Gebremariam believes that student participation and motivation is critical for effective learning, he also prepares exercises and learning tasks that foster interaction, learning, and bonding among his students. For instance, he uses student response system (iclicker) for in-class quizzes and class participation. The questions for the quizzes are from the material recently covered material and are embodied in the “instructor” version of his PowerPoint lecture slides in such a way that students do not know when a question pops up during the lecture; thus, students remain hooked and engaged throughout the session. Some of the questions are discussion questions where he asks each student to explain the issues presented in his lectures to the student sitting next to him/her. He also encourages students to create study groups in order to promote student-to-student interactions.
Dr. Gebremariam also makes himself available not only during regular office hours, but also at anytime (walk-ins are welcome) and encourages his students to come to his office for help if they have problems understanding the lecture materials and/or assignments, including any other difficulties or inquiries they may have. Finally, Dr. Gebremariam takes his support of students with special needs very seriously, both during class and outside class hours.
Dr. Gebremariam has received positive feedback from his students regarding his contributions to their learning, which is consistent with his teaching philosophy described above. For instance, for his Fall 2013 ECOM 2006 class, he received “Thank a Teacher” notes from three students. One student noted, “Dear Dr. Gebremariam, I just want to say thank you for all the hard work and passion that you bring to class every single day. There has never being a time where I haven’t seen you excited to teach and that positive energy really brightens my day. I especially want to add how much I respect you for the difficult journey that you had to endure in order to reach this point of your life as a professor here at Virginia Tech. You are one of the most inspirational people I have ever met and I will never forget you or the lessons you taught me about life and how the human mind is capable of great things. I am humbled and blessed to have ended up in your class and I want to thank you for making macroeconomics one of my favorite classes here at Virginia Tech. It showed me what a difference a professor makes in the learning process. You are simply awesome.” Another student wrote, “Professor Gebremariam, thank you for being a wonderful macroeconomics teacher this year. You were certainly a twist from the usual professors I have had so far at VT. You are more energetic and passionate about your students, and for that I thank you for keeping the class interesting. Thank you for everything!” A third student noted, “Thank you for being such a fair and understanding teacher. Your life story is a true inspiration.”
Dr. Gebremariam has also received several awards. He was the recipient of the Principles Teacher of the Year for both the 2010-2011 and the 2011-2012 academic years from the Department of Economics at Virginia Tech. He was also the recipient of the 2013 Excellence in Access and Inclusion Award for his significant contribution to creating a welcoming and equitable campus climate for people with disabilities at Virginia Tech from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.