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Past Winners of the Teacher of the Week

Sean McGinnis


The Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research (CIDER) recognizes Sean McGinnis, associate professor of practice of Materials Science and Engineering, for focusing on building student engagement, interests, and skills to develop solutions to real-world problems of materials design and sustainability.

Dr. McGinnis is an Associate Professor of Practice in MSE and the Director of the Green Engineering Program at Virginia Tech. He teaches MSE 4055, Materials Selection and Design (MSE 4055), MSE Senior Design Laboratory (MSE 4075-76) and the 2 core courses for the Green Engineering Minor - Introduction to Green Engineering (ENGR 31244) and Environmental Life Cycle Assessment (ENGR 4134). He uses current events, examples, and data, bringing his experience from the corporate, government, and non-profit sectors to his courses. As one student noted, “(Dr. McGinnis) engaged the class in learning the material by providing real world examples and encouraging class participation.” He strives to teach from a learner-centered perspective focused on helping students to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and is continually adjusting his pedagogy based on educational literature and student feedback. In all of his classes, one of his goals is to spark a personal interest in the topic for students so they want to delve into details beyond the course syllabus and content.
Dr. McGinnis started teaching at VT in 2006 after 8 years in industry. An early experience at VT that shaped his perspective as a teacher was an invitation to be a co-instructor for the Earth Sustainability Course. This 4-semester series, with the same cohort of students, was a student-centered approach to interdisciplinary teaching with Sustainability as the focal theme connecting the course topics. This experience disrupted his traditional lecture and content approach to teaching and forced him to consider pedagogical techniques that were based on research to better engage students in critical thinking across disciplines. Dr. McGinnis is also interested in experiential learning and has taken faculty trips to Costa Rica and Iceland with the Global Renewable Energy Education Network (GREEN) Program to see firsthand how study abroad trips can complement the more traditional campus curriculum. He advises students in independent study courses in conjunction with these trips so they can earn credit and explore specific aspects of their trips in much more detail over a semester. As a fellow faculty member commented, "Sean McGinnis is an inspiration when it comes to his dedication to teaching and engaging students.  He is always excited about ideas he learns from reading widely within the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning discipline, and regularly participates in professional development conferences and workshops related to teaching and learning.  He is also distinctive in how enthusiastically he shares resources with colleagues." 

Dr. McGinnis continues to learn about pedagogy through conferences at the American Society for Engineering Educators (ASEE) and the VT Conference for Higher Education Pedagogy. He has also taken several CIDER seminars and completed the CIDER Instructional Scholars Certificate during the 2014 – 15 academic year.


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Teacher of the Week

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A list of the past winners is available.