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Past Winners of the Teacher of the Week

John Chermak


The Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research (CIDER) recognizes John Chermak, associate professor of practice of Geosciences, for using innovative active learning strategies in his teaching to encourage student processing of information and life-long learning

Dr. Chermak believes that teachers, through students, can change the quality of life for future generations. Student learning and ultimately life-long learning is very important to him as his courses often times may be the last science based course many students will take.

Based on Dr. Chermak’s prior experience living abroad and working internationally, he shows students the importance of being an educated world citizen and tries to convince them that a world-view perspective is critical. Dr. Chermak wants to make sure that every student that takes a course with him understands that the everyday choices they make have significant effects on the long-term environmental health of the planet. With this in mind, he shows students how science provides the basis for informed decisions that will improve their lives, and the lives of their children.

To accomplish this, Dr. Chermak uses several techniques that he’s found to be successful and is constantly experimenting with and is always in search of new ones. Active learning strategies include student response systems (i.e., iClickers) that encourage engagement with the material and also allow the identification of misconceptions, flipped exercises where the class discusses in detail the reading, video, or lecture in class, and more recently group exercises with a concluding group poster and associated poster session. This creates a very professional atmosphere for the students. Assessment of student learning gains show these techniques yield good/great student gains in working effectively with others, recognizing a sound argument and using evidence appropriately.

To sum it up, Dr. Chermak states: “My goal in my courses is to inspire students to begin their own life-time pursuit of knowledge so that their career and educational journey can be as exciting for them as it has been for me.”

Dr. Chermak was previously a Pathways Scholar and part of the general education transformation that is occurring, and a Pedagogy in Practice invited author. He also received the Carroll B. Shannon Certificate of Teaching Excellence award from the College of Science. A few positive comments from students in his classes include, “Dr. Chermak is an awesome teacher who cares a lot about our learning. I have never enjoyed a science class this much and “Out of all of the courses I have taken at Virginia Tech, this course has by far been the most engaging class I have been a part of."


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