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Past Winners of the Teacher of the Week

Alma Robinson


The Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research (CIDER) recognizes Alma Robinson, instructor of Physics, for her caring, engaging, interactive, student-centered teaching of introductory physics, and her vital contributions to the department’s Physics Teacher Education Coalition program.

Alma Robinson has taught calculus-based introductory physics, (PHYS 2305-2306) Fundamentals of Physics I, in both large lecture sections of up to 180 students and in SCALE-UP sections. She began her teaching in these sections as part the department’s Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PhysTEC) program, a nationwide program sponsored by the National Science Foundation and administered by the American Physical Institute, American Association of Physics Teachers, and the American Institute of Physics. Part of this program is the reforming of undergraduate physics education, introducing and enlarging the role of interactive, student-centered teaching. Alma has used student-centered teaching in both her large lecture sections and in her SCALE-UP sections, and has consistently gained the praise of her students and her colleagues in the Physics Department. In addition, she created two new courses, the Physics Teaching and Learning course, where undergraduate and graduate students interested in teaching learn about research-based physics-specific pedagogy and Enriched Physics Outreach, a course which expands on the existing outreach program by having students design and implement hands-on physics lessons for K-12 students.

Alma Robinson is recognized by the national leadership of the PhysTEC program as an exemplary Teacher in Residence (TIR); she has been repeatedly and explicitly singled out in national meetings for praise. TIRs are meant to be role models for future teachers, and help in the reform of undergraduate physics education. In 2014 she was selected to be the editor of the national PhysTEC Education Newsletter - Teacher Preparation Section.

According to Dr. Leo Piilonen, Chair of the Department of Physics, “Alma brings her infectious enthusiasm to the SCALE-UP setting where her Physics majors engage with each other and her in their free-wheeling, head-scratching, all-in, first-hand discovery of how the world works.” Dr. John Simonetti of the Physics Department says, “I am continually impressed with how well Alma establishes a relationship of caring and trust with her students, and an atmosphere that promotes the pursuit of learning among equals. She knows very well how to enlist students in the learning process. In all her interactions she makes everyone --- students, faculty, and staff --- feel important and welcome.”

In addition to her colleagues, students also praise Alma’s teaching:

Physics graduate student Jeong-Ah Lee adds, “Always a student favorite, Alma Robinson is a dedicated and enthusiastic teacher. She uses progressive methods to help her students understand physics and enjoy learning. She sets a high example and inspires me to become a better teacher.”

Undergraduate student Colin Bittner says, “Alma teaches with an enthusiasm that I have not seen from any of my other professors...Three years later, I still feel comfortable seeking advice from her. I know that I will always remember the impact that she made on my college career.”

Former undergraduate student Ashley Adkins says, “She was my example of Ut Prosim...she knew every single student by name in a lecture of roughly 100 people. She was one of my most remarkable teachers that I had during my time at Virginia Tech. After I finished her course, I started tutoring for students in the class and always received remarks about how wonderful of a teacher she is. Her efforts to encourage other students to become great and creative physics teachers illustrates how passionate she is about what she does. Alma was the first professor I had that truly encouraged my dream of becoming a physician and helped me accomplish my goal of being accepted to medical school. She is a wonderful person and a marvelous professor.”

Alma Robinson has been recognized as a “Favorite Faculty” by Housing and Residence Life in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. She has also received a number of CIDER “Thank a Teacher” notes from students from 2012 to 2014.

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