Appalachian professor receives Board of Governors award

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The Appalachian Online

Tommy Culkin

Lisa Runner, an associate professor in the Hayes School of Music at Appalachian State, received the Excellence in Teaching award from the North Carolina Board of Governors on March 18.

Professors at each of the UNC system schools were nominated for the award by students and fellow faculty members. Following the initial nomination, a committee at each school selected their school’s nominee, and the final decision was made by the Board of Governors’ Committee on Personnel and Tenure.

Runner, who has been a professor at Appalachian State since 2008, teaches classes about cultivating creative expression through music, and music methods for the classroom teacher.

Neither class is specifically for music majors. Cultivating creative expression through music is a general education class and music methods for the classroom teacher is a class for elementary education majors. Due to this fact, Runner encounters students with a wide range of musical backgrounds in these classes, and she says that she enjoys the challenge of having such a great disparity in skill levels in her classes.

“I have students who have years of musical training, and I have students without any prior knowledge of music,” Runner said. “Figuring out how to approach everyone at their own level, so that it makes sense to everyone without being boring for my more experienced students, is a challenge that I relish.”

William Pelto, the dean of the Hayes School of Music, said these classes create allies for music programs.

“When a school is low on funding, the music programs are often the first to get cut,” Pelto said. “Classes like Dr. Runner’s make sure there are allies for the arts in our school systems who have an interest in protecting those programs.”

Runner said she likes her classes to be active and participatory in the lessons, rather than just having her students listen to her lecture.

David Djaniants, a former student of Runner’s who had her in the spring 2015 semester, said that Runner also liked to bring in guest speakers.

“She’d bring in experts in the field or members of the community to talk to us,” Djaniants said. “If there was someone out there who knew something better than she did, she wasn’t ashamed of it or afraid to bring them in and teach us.”

Djaniants also said that Runner was always very relaxed and at ease during class, which made her students relaxed as well.

Runner said that one of the most important things she strives for is consistency in how she acts with her students, in class and outside of class.

“When I was in school, I had professors who would be very friendly during class, but not at all that way outside of class, or vice versa, where they’d be very stern during lectures, but warm and friendly in the halls,” Runner said. “I try not to do that. I strive to always be the same person with my students.”

Runner received her bachelor’s degree in music from Milligan College in 1979, her master’s degree in media services and instructional technology from East Tennessee State in 1988 and her PhD in educational leadership from Appalachian State in 2005.

Last year, Runner was honored by the popular website ratemyprofessors.com, which listed Runner as one of the 25 highest rated professors in the United States.

“She is simply a consummate teacher,” Pelto said. “She is the perfect combination of caring and rigorous, and she makes her students better musicians and better people.”

Story by Tommy Culkin, Senior News Reporter