2017 Master Teacher Award
Pick an area of the world and it’s likely that Dr. Andrew Gregory has a hand in research there. From India to Germany to Kenya to the U.S., from forests to prairies, he and his many student researchers are collecting data and studying the effects of humans on the natural world.
Gregory’s enthusiasm for his work and his ability to transmit that zeal to students, plus his commitment to empowering them to develop their own natural curiosity, thinking and analytical skills, have earned him their affection and admiration. Gregory was named the 2017 Master Teacher by the Student Alumni Connection. The award includes a $1,000 cash prize.
As much as students like him, Gregory likes them. “I find that I am inspired by my students; their energy, enthusiasm and passion reminds me of those better parts of myself,” he said in his teaching statement. “I also sometimes overhear students talk about a class they took from me and describe it as: ‘a lot of work but worth it’; I simply grin and think, Yes!”
He believes teachers “should be adaptable and able to meet the students where they are. They should be knowledgeable and be able to make complex concepts and principles seem simple and intuitive. They need to be genuine, open and honest with students.”
His students know he cares about them. His nominators wrote, “He takes steps to ensure that his students succeed outside of his classroom. He is awesome, and he works to ensure education is more than just sitting in a classroom.”
By pairing hands-on experiences with complex material, Gregory strengthens and reinforces student learning.
“Education is not simply a matter of an expert transferring knowledge into students’ minds,” he said. “Rather the goal of the educator should be to provide students with the opportunity to engage higher level synthetic thought processes, which will allow them to make links between their schema and real-world experiences. The key conceptual framework of my teaching philosophy is to recognize that learning takes place in students’ minds and the role of the instructor is to act as a conduit to facilitate that event.”
A faculty member in the School of Earth, Environment and Society http://www.bgsu.edu/arts-and-sciences/earth-environment-and-society.html, Gregory is not easily categorized. As a spatial ecologist and spatial geneticist, “I am fascinated by how natural areas, wildlife and plants are dealing with what humans have done,” he said.
This could mean helping Kenya preserve its Kakamega Rain Forest, an important natural resource, or studying the ditches in Wood County, which to others might seem dull but which, because of their state of benign neglect, to Gregory are teeming with fascinating information about native and non-native plants.
A prolific scholar, he finds creative ways to enhance his teaching and thereby student learning in part by enlisting students in his research and giving them real work that is of value not only to them and the research but to local and national and international environmental agencies and governments.
“When I started teaching Field and Lab Methods at BGSU, I wanted to provide students with authentic experiences,” Gregory said. “I also wanted to use my teaching to train a potential pool of field techs for my research. To accomplish this, I reached out to Toledo Metroparks Native Plant (TMPNP) Nursery and developed a collaboration with them. The 3100 students would provide post restoration monitoring for restored prairies and TMPNP would come demonstrate how TMPNP is working to restore prairies throughout the Oak Opinions region. Thus, students in 3100 are actually doing post restoration monitoring of local rangeland restoration projects.”
In 2016, he was presented the faculty mentor award by the Center for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship http://www.bgsu.edu/provost/center-for-undergraduate-research-and-scholarship.html. He encouraged other faculty not to hesitate to take students along on research expeditions, humorously acknowledging that many things can and will go wrong, but that the overall experience will be well worth it for students and faculty alike — an apt example of his zest for discovery and adventure.