Five University of Hawaiʻi teachers have been recognized with the Frances Davis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching—Katherine “Sam” Geiling, Will Jonen, Joel A. LeBel, Barbara Meguro and Jamie Simpson Steele.
This award recognizes dedication and demonstrated excellence of teachers of undergraduate students. It was established as a memorial to the late Frances Davis, who taught mathematics at Leeward Community College and UH Mānoa for 19 years.
Frances Davis Award honorees
Sam Geiling is the heartbeat of the veterinary technology program at Windward Community College, the only program of its kind in the state. She has taught more than a dozen animal science classes and specializes in teaching clinical laboratory techniques with a passion.
She motivates and helps her students grasp the rigorous material, acquire skills and excel from the certificate of achievement in veterinary assisting to the associate in science in veterinary technology degree. Her impact on students goes beyond the classroom. While challenged at work in a veterinary clinic one student remarked, “I asked myself, ‘What would Sam do?’ and it helped!”
Geiling is committed to preparing students to pass the vet tech national examination for careers in veterinary clinics or labs. To this end, she has forged relationships with more than 30 vet clinics and shelters, designed new courses and helped make the AS degree in veterinary technology a reality at Windward
Assistant professor, math and sciences, Kapiʻolani Community College
Through innovative teaching methods in the field of anatomy and physiology and dedication to his students, Will Jonen has proven himself to be an outstanding educator. He feels that playing even a small role in the positive growth of people gives his work substance and has enhanced his sense of fulfillment in life. While maintaining belief in Kapiʻolani Community College’s motto, “Strive for the highest,” Jonen is constantly searching for ways to best support students in their learning.
One of his students said, “Dr. Jonen stands alone as the single most inspirational teacher I have had. He consistently demonstrates a high level of expectations for students in combination with an equally high level of support and concern for our learning. Dr. Jonen’s mastery of anatomy and physiology, his ability to impart information in a clear and insightful way, his enthusiasm and his high expectations are preparing me for success in the future.”
A colleague said, “In his relatively short tenure at KCC, he has transformed the zoology curriculum to make it more current, dynamic and engaging for students. After finding the previous materials to be outdated and uninspiring, he rewrote the entire course packet single-handedly and made it available to other faculty.”
Joel LeBel is described as one of the strongest and scholastically knowledgeable PhD candidates in the Department of Philosophy. His mastery of the relevant subject matter is matched only by his creativity in clearly conveying some of the more esoteric concepts and traditions in the discipline.
Wrote one nominator, “Anyone familiar with philosophy knows it is fundamentally driven by questions, and the novel, fun and relevant way LeBel was able to pose these millennia year-old questions was nothing short of imaginative and perceptive.”
He established a learning community, in which he seats his students in a circle, with him in the middle of it, because of his belief that “all are teachers, and all are students.” He has cultivated an academically safe environment that unshackles students from intellectual restraints.
Barbara Meguro has been teaching service courses for non-majors at UH Hilo since 2001 and has been teaching the introductory course for majors since 2012. She is a major contributor to most of the course notes used in the computer science service classes, particularly microcomputer applications software, web technology, web server management and graphics and game programming.
She recently participated in an National Science Foundation study about the effect of studio-based learning in computer science courses on learning and students’ confidence in their ability to master the material.
Prior to UH Hilo, she taught computer application and industry network certification courses for 17 years at Coastline Community College in Fountain Valley, CA. She also supervised the college’s computer laboratories there. Her primary industry experience was programming in basic for the budget department of ITT Cannon Electric. In 1987, she self-published WordStar Explained and DOS for Beginners, both of which were used by several community colleges in California. As technology changed, her textbooks switched to WordPerfect and dBASE.
Jamie Simpson Steele has a passion for teaching that is expressed through dynamic instruction, dedicated responsiveness to students, collaboration and co-teaching and a commitment to universal design and culturally relevant pedagogy.
A uniquely potent characteristic of her engaged and creative teaching derives from her background in the performing arts, which generates high-energy student learning through movement and action, thinking and talking. She sees the arts as a “rehearsal for life” and that “an engagement in aesthetic realms provides entries into how the world works in ways that traditional learning does not.”
She has assumed leadership in developing, implementing and assessing a co-teaching program to engage future teachers in blended content involving general elementary and special education through redesigning courses to better meet the needs of diverse learners.