The fantastic five

Five MU professors have been rewarded for their dedication to teaching with William T. Kemper Fellowships for Teaching Excellence. The fellowships include a $10,000 gift.
Monday, April 16, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:27 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Fran Arbaugh

Assistant professor of mathematics education


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Arbaugh began her work at MU in 2001. She said her biggest challenge as a teacher is juggling time between her math education courses, working with K-12 math teachers in area schools, and doing grant work and research.

“If you listen to children’s thinking, you’ve learned so much, and you can help them progress,” Arbaugh said. Her research focuses on the teaching of mathematics at middle and secondary school levels. She is currently working on a longitudinal study of the learning development of three cohorts of post-baccalaureate math and science education students over a two-year period. Arbaugh said she stresses the idea that students learn by experience.

“I believe that people learn best when they are provided authentic learning activities and are asked to synthesize and explain how things are put together,” Arbaugh said. She also finds time to mentor graduate students in the area of college teaching. Arbaugh will be teaching two classes in the fall of 2007, one for undergraduate elementary education students at MU and another for Columbia public school teachers.

“I’m so fascinated to watch my students learn,” Arbaugh said, “and I think that there is nothing greater than watching your student have an ‘ah-ha’ moment.”

R. Wilson Freyermuth

John D. Lawson professor of law

Freyermuth has been a member of the MU law faculty since 1992. His teaching focuses on the areas of property, real estate, secured transactions and local government. Freyermuth’s goal is to “bring a sense of enthusiasm to the subject matter,” he said. “I really care about what (the students) are learning and if they’re learning.”

Much of his work focuses on the integration of technology and education. This year, Freyermuth began using clickers in his classrooms to get automatic responses from his students. The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction named him a property fellow in 2000. Also known as CALI, the computer-based learning company develops and disseminates web based materials that provide references for law students, Freyermuth said. He created 10 property law exercises that are being used by law schools across the country. Freyermuth said that this sort of technology is becoming increasingly available and familiar to students at MU.

“We have to give students the knowledge that they need,” Freyermuth said. “As students become more technologically savvy, we’ll be more effective as teachers if we can challenge ourselves to adapt to the newest classroom technologies.” Freyermuth said that he finds “teaching to be a great challenge, but the challenge is what makes the job so fun.”

Lois Huneycutt

Associate professor of history

Huneycutt began teaching full time at MU in 1996 and specializes in medieval European history. She has taught a variety of classes, from the freshman survey of Western civilization to graduate level courses. Huneycutt said she uses whatever tools she can to bring history alive and tried to erase students misconceptions that the Middle Ages were “long ago and far away and don’t have much of an impact on their own lives.” Huneycutt’s teaching philosophies include engaging students through a variety of assignments for both individuals and groups.

“Students do better in class when they feel a real connection with other people in the class,” Huneycutt said. She said that she tries to create a learning community for her students and “realize that people have different things that are going to allow them to succeed.” In one of her classes, students put on a mock trial in place of a midterm exam. At the end of the trial, the prosecutor decided that a man was to be burned at the stake, Huneycutt said, and the students made an effigy of him and wanted to light it on fire in the classroom.

“I couldn’t allow that, but it was interesting to see how much they get into it,” Huneycutt said. She said that she tries to accommodate all of her students by having open office hours and working with individual students on senior projects as often as she can. Huneycutt’s biggest challenge is keeping up with technology on campus.

“I’m finding out that I’ve fallen behind on the different creative ways you can use technology in the classroom,” Huneycutt said. She is currently taking classes to increase her technological knowledge.

Lynda Kraxberger

Associate professor of convergence journalism

Kraxberger, who came to MU in 1993, said she thinks about pancakes when she remembers her most interesting classroom experiences. It is Kraxberger’s tradition to bring a griddle and pancake batter on the last day of class and cook for her students with music playing in the background.

“The griddles get so hot you can walk in the door of Neff Hall and smell pancakes cooking two floors up,” Kraxberger said. In addition, she hand-crafts awards for her students from plastic animal figurines and alphabet blocks. “It’s easy at a premier journalism school to focus on mistakes, but I always like the last day to be about success,” Kraxberger said.

A former MU broadcast student, Kraxberger is one of the founders of the new convergence journalism sequence at MU. She began her work at MU for the NBC affiliate television station, KOMU. In 2000, she moved to the traditional classroom setting and taught broadcast classes but never used the same syllabus twice. She said that one of the most important things to acknowledge in the classroom is that students have many different learning styles.

“I’m a pretty firm believer in the Missouri method that people learn best by doing,” Kraxberger said. She served for five years on the Campus Curriculum Committee and worked to implement new courses in the convergence journalism sequence and also schoolwide. Although some things about storytelling will never change, Kraxberger said, students need to be adaptable and not “get locked into doing something one way.”

Frank J. Schmidt

Professor of biochemistry

Schmidt has been teaching and doing research at MU since 1978. He said that one of his teaching philosophies is to “move away from the cookbook” style of lab experiments and get students to think like scientists. He said that he chooses assignments that ask students to propose their own ideas and experiments, and then ask questions to see if they are true.

“I try to think of ways in which science education can be better, not just for myself, but as a system,” Schmidt said. Schmidt was part of a team of faculty members that developed and taught two introductory level science courses in the Honors College at MU. Schmidt said the team faced the challenge with a “less is more” approach.

“I would rather have people get the basics and the first principles really solidly, and then they can apply it to new situations,” Schmidt said. One of the most important things for Schmidt is hearing from old students who valued his teaching and can apply concepts they learned outside of class. Schmidt said he received an e-mail from a student last semester saying that she watched the movie “A Few Good Men” and understood what happened when one of the characters died from lactic acidosis.

“The student (originally) came in saying ‘I don’t understand any chemistry at all’ and (her e-mail) made my day,” Schmidt said. “Feedback is something that we all enjoy as teachers.”

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