Professors Recognized for Their Excellent Teaching

Professors James Hoch and Jeremy Teigen shared the spotlight at this year’s Henry Bischoff Excellence in Teaching Award reception, held yesterday at 3 p.m. in the Alumni Lounge. Hoch, professor of creative writing, and Teigen, associate professor of political science, were recognized by their colleagues as outstanding faculty members that embody “the best of Ramapo’s teaching culture.”

“Teaching is not just standing up and proving how smart you are, but actually walking the walk,” Provost Beth Barnett said. “You both are a privilege to have in our classrooms. You make me very proud to be at Ramapo.”

Committee chairs and the 2012 award recipients Ed Petkus, associate professor of marketing, and Maya Poran, associate professor of developmental psychology, lauded Hoch and Teigen for their contributions and their dedication to teaching.

“All of your materials showed imagination and a sincere desire to engage students, and experiences that will provide for lifelong learning and lifelong reflection,” Petkus said of Teigen. “In addition, we felt your courses provided levels of experiential student participation that are going to make your students when they leave here active and civically-oriented participants in the political process.”

Poran called Hoch “truly a very special teacher” who “offers a transformative experience to students who are willing to rise to challenges.”

“We also appreciate the level of planning you had in your classroom while leaving room for the serendipity for each student to come into their own,” Poran continued, “and we really believe that this style allows for the maximum room for each student to grow and develop.”

Before accepting their awards, Hoch and Teigen shared their insights on teaching and learning in a “four act play” that they created together. In the presentation, the pair discussed their teaching philosophies, memorable moments in the classroom and their mentors in academia and in life.

Hoch, who is teaching critical reading and writing, poetry writing and creative writing capstone courses this semester, said all of the “wonderful teachers” in life share the same quality as his biggest inspiration-his 5-year-old son Owen.

“I’ve never met anyone who loves life more than Owen,” he said. “You see, every day Owen wakes up, he does not want to be anywhere else. That’s what made all these teachers great teachers: when they walk into the classroom, they do not want to be anywhere else.”

Teigen, who teaches political science methodology and American government courses this semester, recalled “the dirty little secret of learning” that his mentor and historian Stephen Ambrose told him.

“Educators in K-12 are very good at teaching but don’t know a lot about what they teach,” the saying goes, “and the reverse is true for people in our profession, which is, they know a lot about what they know about, but they don’t know anything about teaching.”

But Ramapo, Teigen said, is continually challenging that.

“It’s been a great pleasure to come to an institution that not only values teaching centrally, but also provides all kinds of formal and informal mechanisms to talk about it and improve on it,” he explained. “It’s been a great pleasure to prove Stephen Ambrose wrong.”

The Henry Bischoff Excellence in Teaching Award was created in 1997 after the award’s namesake, historian and former professor Henry Bischoff, retired. Faculty members nominate their colleagues for the honor, and past recipients of the award include Peter Campbell, associate professor of theater history and criticism, Edna Negron, professor of journalism, and Carter Jones Meyer, professor of history, among others.

“The people who are involved in doing it are just so lovely,” Teigen said of the committee of his colleagues that select the award recipients. “It’s so nice that it’s our peers that make this decision.”

Hoch added that being selected as a winner is “touching.”

“You feel seen, you feel recognized in some particular way,” he explained. “You feel like people got you.”

Other faculty members at the reception had high praise for Hoch and Teigen.

“We’re so fortunate to have both of you among us,” Professor of Management Susan Eisner told the award winners, “and this is the highest honor that you can receive that the College, because your peers have recognized the outstanding contribution and level that you bring to the classroom.”

Professionally, both educators have many other accomplishments: Teigen was awarded a Fulbright Scholar grant in 2011 to teach in Tbilisi, Georgia, and Hoch’s poems have appeared in a variety of publications and two of his own books.

Despite their considerable achievements, both professors insisted, as Hoch put it, they are “works in progress.”

“We sort of see ourselves as flawed teachers who just try to scrape at getting better,” Teigen added.