By Jennifer Krisch
Each year since 2001, just a few teachers earn the title of Ohio University Presidential Teacher, an honor that recognizes excellence in and out of the classroom. This year's recipients are Athens campus faculty members Debra Henderson, an associate professor of sociology, and Scott Titsworth, an associate professor of communication studies, and Pramod Kanwar, an associate professor of mathematics at Ohio University-Zanesville.
Associate professor of communication studies
Associate director of graduate studies
Scott Titsworth just sat and stared, frozen in his seat
Associate Provost for Academic Affairs Marty Tuck had interrupted his class to present him with the Presidential Teacher Award.
"It is my pleasure to introduce Professor Titsworth as one of our 2008 Presidential Teachers," he told Titsworth's students, who began cheering and clapping before their astounded teacher even realized what was unfolding.
Finally understanding, Titsworth rose from his chair and made his way through the desks to accept his plaque from Tuck and committee members.
"I think I may have spilled coffee on my shirt," Titsworth laughed. "Really, thank you all for a great surprise!"
He later said he was caught entirely off-guard and that the surprise in his classroom is something he will never forget. "Plus, I think my students got a kick out of seeing me speechless for the first time ever."
DeLysa Burnier, one of the first two recipients of a Presidential Teacher Award in 2001, said Titsworth embodies every aspect the selection committee looks for in a candidate.
"He's just an all-around excellent teacher," she said. "How he gets students engaged was really appealing to us, and he is so very generous of his time with students."
Titsworth says he is humbled by the recognition, but that the real credit goes to his students and colleagues.
"I have grown in so many ways as a teacher since coming to Ohio University seven years ago, due mostly to the wonderful students and fellow teachers who have been part of my life here," he said. "The Presidential Teacher Award is very meaningful because of the historic reputation of Ohio University as an institution with outstanding teachers and students."
Rather than stand and lecture in upper-level classes, Titsworth involves students in open discussions. Junior Jane Carroll said the exchanges allow students to guide their own learning.
"He teaches by letting us learn for ourselves," said Carroll, an organizational communications major. "He only lectures when he has to, and I find our open discussions to be where I learn most. This helps our class because it allows us to think for ourselves and decipher things that would normally be told to us."
Titsworth said he hopes every student finds ways to enjoy learning. "At its heart, learning should be exciting and fun. As teachers, we should do everything possible to avoid perpetuating the socially constructed binary between reason and emotion and allow students to grow as people in our classes."
Titsworth, who teaches a 400-person communication class each fall, also is a leader in the creative use of technology in the classroom, Tuck said. He was the first professor to utilize the Student Response System "clicker" technology in class to encourage student participation. Additionally, he serves as a student adviser and mentors both students and faculty, holding faculty workshops and following an open-door policy for students. Titsworth also has authored four undergraduate textbooks on communication.
"Professor Titsworth is the kind of professor who -- no matter what is going on in the class or in his or a student's personal life -- is always the most respectful and as caring as anyone can be," Carroll said. "He really cares about his students and respects us as individuals with minds of our own."
Tuck told the class their teacher hit the "award mother lode" this spring, as Titsworth also was honored as a University Professor, a student-bestowed distinction.
When presented with his Presidential Teacher Award, Titsworth immediately thanked his students -- "for putting up with me," he said -- and the committee for its hard work during the selection process.
"I could not have been caught more off-guard," he said. "This really means so much. It really, really does."