A Central Michigan University professor was named 2013 College Teacher of the Year by the Board of the Michigan Science Teachers Association.
Jim McDonald, professor of teacher education and professional development, was nominated for the award by department chairman Larry Corbett.
“I was totally surprised,” McDonald said. “It’s humbling and it’s an honor.”
McDonald has been a teacher for 25 years and has been at CMU for 11 of those years, where he has been a science education professor.
Instead of lecturing from a book, McDonald has a hands-on approach to teaching. He has his students prepare science lessons and then sends them to schools in surrounding counties to teach children.
McDonald said winning the award means that he’s doing the right things as a teacher.
“It’s very validating,” he said. “It also means that I’m giving back to the schools that take our students into their classrooms.”
McDonald has also been chairman of the Academic Senate for two years.
Michelle Vanhala, Student Government Association senate leader and Big Rapids senior, was a student senator on the Academic Senate last year.
“I don’t know (McDonald) very well, but I’ve always been really impressed by him,” Vanhala said. “I thought that he ran things very well. He was always very professional and he’s a very good leader.”
Vincent Cavataio, another student senator, worked on A-Senate with McDonald the past two years.
“I am very happy for him,” the Shelby Township graduate student said.
Cavatio said McDonald reaches out to his students and understands them.
“I think he is a great leader,” Cavataio said. “When he isn’t doing something right, he takes the actions to correct them. He’s not afraid to admit that he’s made a mistake, and that’s very admirable.”
Associate Professor of Educational Leadership David Whale also works on the A-Senate with McDonald.
“Jim McDonald is an outstanding colleague. I couldn’t be happier for him receiving that college teaching award,” Whale said.
Whale’s oldest daughter, Carolyn, went through the teacher education program at CMU and is now a science teacher in Detroit.
“She got a great education, so I can speak both as a parent and as a colleague,” Whale said. “I also believe that Jim runs the A-Senate meetings very fairly and very well. He gives everyone an opportunity to speak. He’s well prepared in everything that he does and CMU is very fortunate to have Jim McDonald as a faculty member.”
McDonald said he will continue to use hands-on approaches to learning in his classroom.
“I’ll keep doing good things with the students in my classroom,” McDonald said. “Teaching my students is a very positive experience and it will continue to be.”
McDonald will accept his award at the 60th Annual MSTA Conference on March 8 at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti.