Dr. McNabb Receives CAS Outstanding Faculty Award for Teaching

May 10, 2009

Dr. Jennifer L. McNabb, Assistant Professor of History, was chosen by WIU's College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) as this year's winner of the CAS Outstanding Faculty Award for Teaching, Dean Inessa Levi announced. Dr. McNabb was honored for her accomplishments in the realm of teaching, along with other award winners, including Associate Professor of History, Dr. Scott Palmer, this year's CAS Outstanding Faculty Award winner for Research/Scholarship (see related article in blue box) at the Annual CAS Awards Reception on Friday, May 8 at 4 p.m. in the University Union's LaMoine Room.

During the period covered by this award (August 1, 2005 through July 31, 2008), her first three years at Western, Dr. McNabb provided inspirational and superbly effective teaching to undergraduate and graduate students alike, took a leadership role in encouraging and mentoring students in conducting historical research, and inspired in her students a tremendous enthusiasm for the study of history. Dr. McNabb has consistently demonstrated an ongoing commitment to and enthusiasm for excellence in teaching and has effectively incorporated her research findings and materials into her teaching. She has proven to be an engaging and effective educator who inspires in her students, through her enthusiasm and commitment, a tremendous interest in and mastery of whatever she is teaching. Her colleagues in the History Department have noted that she is unmistakably well-prepared, enjoys her subject, and energizes her students by her approach to teaching. She has high expectations for her students, and her courses challenge her students to work their hardest and do their best. Despite the rigor of her courses, in every single class since arriving at Western almost four years ago, more than three-quarters of Dr. McNabb's students have rated her teaching as "very good" or "excellent." As one of her undergraduate students commented in a letter of support for her nomination for this award that "she is an exceptional teacher in every way. Dr. McNabb stands out because of her combination of enthusiasm, professionalism, proficiency, and some sort of 'X factor' that makes her classes not just informative, but downright fun. Dr. McNabb is the best teacher I have ever met." Another student noted, "After a fifty-minute lecture, other students and I have been shocked and disappointed to see that class is over. We have begged her to continue teaching after class, and we have regularly requested extra lectures so we can learn as much as possible from her."

Dr. McNabb has taught a wide range of courses, from freshmen surveys to graduate seminars. In all cases, she works effectively with her students to help them enhance their understanding of history, their analytical ability, and their communications skills. One of Dr. McNabb's graduate seminar students commented in a letter of support for her nomination that "While Dr. McNabb was always prepared to suggest improvements she also provided guidance and assistance on how to make those improvements when it was necessary. At several points during the semester I was able to take feedback from Dr. McNabb and apply it to papers and projects in other classes."

Prof. McNabb has also created a number of classroom activities designed to encourage hands-on learning experiences, problem-solving skills, and cooperative learning/teamwork in her courses. In her Middle Ages course, for example, student groups staged a debate concerning the most influential development of the chaotic period between the years 800 and 1000 A.D., made class presentations on various aspects of the Crusades, and participated in "Survivor: Black Death," a role-playing game about the fourteenth-century plague that Dr. McNabb created. In each instance, students needed to draw on their reading of historical evidence to complete their projects, and they had to learn how to work together to accomplish their assigned task. In her British history course, student projects included presentations evaluating the reign of Richard III ("Historical Villain or Historical Victim?") and a month-long "Virtual Village" exercise, requiring students to adopt individual roles in a sixteenth-century English village, based on primary source materials provided by Dr. McNabb from her own research, in preparation for mock witchcraft trials held at the end of the month of "village" life.

Dr. McNabb also expends significant effort working with undergraduate and graduate students on independent research projects involving original research in archival sources. A number of her students have won undergraduate research awards from the College, including the prestigious Teeter Awards and the Summer SCAI Award, for research projects on which she has actively mentored them. Several of her graduate students have won grants from the School of Graduate Studies, as well. She has had quite a few students, both graduate and undergraduate, present their research papers at off-campus conferences, including a graduate research conference at Loyola of Chicago, and an undergraduate research conference at Purdue University in Indiana. As an accomplished scholar herself, Dr. McNabb has been able to offer valuable mentoring to her students as they work on their own research, whether for presentation at conferences or for the multiple honors theses and in-class honors projects she has mentored.

In addition to her accomplishments in the realm of teaching, during her first four years at Western Dr. McNabb has remained extremely active and productive as both a scholar and a member of the University community. She has presented papers three times at the leading international academic conference in her field, the Sixteenth Century Society and Conference (SCSC), as well as once at the North American Conference on British Studies, an international conference on British history. In addition, her peer-reviewed article on the impact of the Reformation in England was recently published in The Sixteenth Century Journal, the leading peer-reviewed international journal in her field. In addition, Dr. McNabb currently serves as Faculty Advisor for the Associated Students of History, as Chair of the University's Writing-in-the-Disciplines Committee, and as a member of WIU's Graduate Council, the University Research Council, and WIU's Honors Council, among others. She was recently elected to a three-year term on the WIU Faculty Senate and chairs the History Department's Undergraduate Scholarships and Recruitment Committee.

One of Dr. McNabb's former students, a recent Honors alumnus and now a teacher himself, said in his letter of support for her nomination, "To select her as a recipient of the WIU College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Faculty Award for Teaching does not even begin to illustrate the compassion and dedication that she puts into her pedagogical method in and out of the classroom." He closed by noting that "I would not be the person or teacher that I am today without Dr. McNabb's continual perseverance to push her students to not only do our best, but to push beyond that to reach a position of excellence." She inspires her students "to not only love history but to embrace its every aspect and inject that feeling into our students."

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