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Past Winners of the Teacher of the Week

Lori Blanc

   

The Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research (CIDER) recognizes Lori Blanc, assistant professor of practice of Biological Sciences, for focusing on developing and teaching a diverse profile of high-impact experiential learning programs with an emphasis on sustainability, conservation biology, and leadership in the sciences.

Dr. Blanc’s teaching philosophy centers on three core principles: learn by doing, lead by example, and work hard / play hard. This teaching philosophy stems from three influential experiences in her academic career: (1) undergraduate and graduate training at California Polytechnic State University of San Luis Obispo, where the university motto is “Learn by Doing”, (2) graduate training in Virginia Tech’s Preparing the Future Professoriate Program and (3) teaching in the two-year experimental interdisciplinary Earth Sustainability core curriculum program at Virginia Tech, which serves as a model for the integrated learning experiences being developed as part of the University’s efforts to reinvent general education. Drawing from these experiences, Dr. Blanc has brought a number of new experiential learning programs to Virginia Tech, all of which align with the university’s emphasis on “hands-on, minds-on” learning. This has not gone unnoticed by her colleagues. As one faculty member stated: “When we think of high-impact practices for student learning: learning communities, study abroad, service learning, I cannot think of anyone who has led so many of these experience nor led them as well as Lori Blanc.”

Through high-impact educational experiences, Dr. Blanc hopes to inspire her students to develop a sense of curiosity about the natural world, a strong work ethic, the courage to think big, the initiative to actively determine the course of their own lives, and the desire to create positive change in the world through service. This philosophy is reflected in the way that she structures her courses, which apply and integrate collaborative problem solving, living learning communities, service learning, citizen science, educational outreach, undergraduate research, and First Year Experience. She teaches by working alongside students to engage them in the learning process, and by positioning students to learn from each other. Students and faculty work together to learn by doing, collaborating, and fumbling their way through the messy, complicated, nuanced process of learning together. Students feel that Dr. Blanc genuinely want them to succeed. As one students stated, “she challenged us, she pushed us to work harder. For all of our writing assignments she didn't accept mediocrity - I had to write and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite my assignments before they were approved as good work. I feel that for the first time in my college career I have had a professor who cared enough for her students that she wouldn't let us walk the easy road.”

Dr. Blanc leads the majority of the study abroad experiences offered through the College of Science, taking students to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Antarctica, where they study conservation biology and sustainability by integrating service learning, citizen science and educational outreach activities. To date, 312 Virginia Tech students from 48 majors in seven colleges have participated. Dr. Blanc’s courses are offered collaboratively as part of a consortium of U.S. universities, so her teaching extends beyond Blacksburg to include 83 students from 20 other university campuses. In 2014, Dr. Blanc’s study abroad course was featured on Pulse of the Planet (Science meets culture in New Zealand), and broadcast through National Public Radio. In 2016, Dr. Blanc was recognized with the Alumni Award for Excellence in International Education. For her development of her FYE Peer-to-Peer Project educational model, and its pedagogical innovation and high impact on student learning, Dr. Blanc received the 2014 Virginia Tech Diggs Teaching Scholar Award. In recognition of her work with the Successful Starts in Science FYE program, Dr. Blanc has been selected as the award recipient for the 2017-2018 Excellence in Teaching First-Year Seminars award through the National Resource Center for First Year Experience and Students in Transition.

Homepage: http://www.faculty.biol.vt.edu/walters/lblanc/





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