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Six professors honored for teaching excellence

The Appalachian Online

Six Appalachian State University professors were recently honored for their excellence in teaching by the UNC Board of Governors.

Each professor was awarded $1,000 for the distinction, and will receive a medallion at Appalachian’s Holmes Convocation Center. This is the second consecutive year six Appalachian professors have been honored for teaching excellence by the BOG.


Christopher Bartel

Bartel, an associate philosophy and religion professor, has taught at Appalachian since 2007. He received a degree in music from Berklee College of Music, after which he worked in the music industry as a musician, sound engineer and a roadie for several years. He got his Master’s Degree in philosophy of art from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, and his Ph.D. in philosophy from King’s College in the University of London.

Bartel is currently teaching classes on philosophy in pop culture, philosophy of the arts, and philosophical aesthetics.

Bartel said he models his classroom style after the Socratic Method, which is the belief in teaching by learning and vice versa through open conversations.

“I don’t know the truth of reality, and neither does anyone,” Bartel said. “But if we have conversation, and you tell me what I’m wrong in, and I tell you what you’re wrong about then we’ll help each other get slowly closer to the truth.”

Bartel believes an understanding of philosophy is one of the most important skills a person can have.

“Philosophy is a skill of reasoning,” Bartel said. “Every employer wants a person who can reason well, but we never explicitly learn it. I give students the tools to think rationally, critically [and] logically and then they do what they want with those tools.”

Bartel said his favorite moments as a professor come when students change his views on a subject through conversation and the Socratic Method.

“I want the students to criticize me,” Bartel said. “I want them to genuinely challenge me.”


Shawn Bergman

Bergman has been an associate psychology professor at Appalachian since 2007. He received a B.S. in psychology from Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri. He received his Master’s Degree in psychology from Catholic University of America and he got his his Ph.D. in industrial-organizational psychology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Bergman is currently teaching classes in research methods and statistics. He is also working on a research project analyzing the roles of social media in business psychology.

Bergman said he was incredibly humbled by the recognition because of the number of excellent professors at Appalachian.

“We’ve got so many great professors here at App, and to have somebody else say that I’m somehow selected above some really good professors is an honor,” he said.

Bergman said his approach to teaching focuses on reminding his students that all professors were once students themselves.

“I try to convince my students that I am no more smarter than any of you in that classroom,” Bergman said. “The only difference is I’ve lived longer and learned more about subject. It’s about teaching them that they can get where I am in expertise right now in any area, it just takes time.”

Bergman said the most important thing professors can do is remember to be themselves.

“Professors need to remember what it was like to be a student and just be yourself,” Bergman said. “Let the students get to know you as a person and show that you care.”


Catherine Fountain

Fountain, an associate linguistics and foreign language professor, has been a professor at Appalachian since 2006. She received her undergraduate degree from Cornell University, before receiving her Master’s Degree in Spanish and her Ph.D. in foreign languages from UCLA.

Fountain was runner-up for the UNC Board of Governors Award for Teaching Excellence, and was awarded $1,500.

This semester, Fountain is teaching an introductory linguistics class, a course on sociolinguistics and a class on teaching languages. Fountain usually teaches Spanish as well, but is teaching more linguistics courses this semester while another linguistics professor is on sabbatical.

Fountain said she loves teaching linguistics because of how intricate the subject is.

“Language is something we use every single day, and there are so many aspects of our everyday language that we don’t stop to think about,” Fountain said. “But one of the things we know about language is that it’s one of the most natural parts of being human to have human language.”

Fountain said the hardest part of being an educator is avoiding becoming complacent in your teaching methodology.

“It becomes really easy to think you can teach a class with your eyes closed,” Fountain said. “You have to challenge yourself and maybe step back completely from your class and think about restructuring it totally.”

Fountain stresses that being considerate is the key to being a good teacher.

“Be clear in your expectations, be reasonable, treat every student as a person, and do all those other things you might take for granted,” Fountain said.


Kristina Groover

Groover became an English professor at Appalachian in 1996. She received a B.A. in English from Dickinson College and her Master’s Degree and Ph.D. in English, both from UNC-Chapel Hill.

This semester, Groover is teaching classes on African American literature and 20th century British and American literature.

Groover said each semester she approaches her classes with an open mind and teaches according to the types of students she has.

“Every semester is different even if I’m teaching the same text, because the students in the class are bringing something different to the classroom than in any other semester,” Groover said. “There’s always new perspectives and new challenges and that’s what makes teaching endlessly interesting to me.”

Groover’s favorite moments come when students present fresh literary analyses she has never considered before.

“As long as you’re teaching literary works that will stand up to a lot of analysis, there’s an endless number of perspectives that students bring into the classroom,” Groover said.


James Stokes

Stokes has been a music professor specializing in trumpet at Appalachian since 2008. He got his undergraduate degree in music education from Indiana University and his Master’s Degree and Ph.D. in music performance from Ohio State University.

Over the course of his performance career, Stokes has performed with many prominent artists, including John Williams, Barry Manilow, Aretha Franklin and more.

Stokes teaches trumpet performance classes, and frequently is called upon to conduct various ensembles.

Stokes said his favorite part of being an educator is watching his students succeed.

“I teach music, but it’s more about life in general,” Stokes said. “It’s the perseverance at whatever you do, knowing that whatever you study you will improve in and that transfers into a lot of other things in life.”

Stokes said he’s doing what he loves for a living and doesn’t consider music education work.

“There’s really not a lot of hard parts [of teaching],” Stokes said. “When I come to work, I come to play.”


Kevin Zwetsloot

Zwetsloot joined Appalachian’s faculty as an assistant professor in the Department of Health and Exercise Science in 2009. He got his undergraduate degree and his Master’s Degree in exercise physiology from California State University at Chico. He received his Ph.D. in bioenergetics from East Carolina University.

Zwetsloot currently teaches exercise physiology at the graduate and undergraduate levels.

Zwetsloot enjoys teaching at Appalachian because he believes the university puts more emphasis on education than many other universities.

“Here at Appalachian, we really do emphasize teaching, and emphasize that the students get a good educational experience,” Zwetsloot said. “I don’t think students get that at most larger universities.”

Zwetsloot said his teaching philosophy is to be half educational and half entertainment.

“If I can keep them engaged in the classroom [and] keep them interested in the subject material, I think that goes a long way,” Zwetsloot said.

Zwetsloot’s favorite part of being a professor is the opportunity it gives him to connect on a personal level with his students.

“It gives me a new perspective on how the generations are changing,” Zwetsloot said. “Being able to see a new group of students and really getting to know new students all the time is, I think, the best part of the job.”

STORY: Tommy Culkin, News Reporter

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    Patricia ShivelyApr 27, 2015 at 9:40 am

    It is no doubt thrillingly satisfying for students and their parents to read such wonderful news! These deserving professors express the visionary attitudes one hopes for in their college experience.