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A Columbus State University physicist has been recognized as the most outstanding undergraduate professor in Georgia — a first-time honor for a CSU faculty member.
The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) announced today Kimberly Shaw is 2015’s Georgia Professor of the Year, which is the association’s most prestigious award honoring undergraduate teaching.
“This award isn’t just mine,” said Shaw, who serves as professor of physics and co-director of UTeach Columbus, an innovative mathematics, science and education teaching program. “It belongs to all of my colleagues who work so hard to ensure our students learn and succeed. The most rewarding part of my job is always knowing I have made a difference.”
CASE honored Shaw during ceremonies Thursday in Washington, D.C. at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.
Shaw joined this year’s state and national award winners to celebrate CASE’s 35th year of the awards program.
“This is an impressive honor bestowed upon Dr. Shaw,” said Clint Barineau, interim chair and associate professor of geology in CSU’s Department of Earth and Space Sciences. “This award acknowledges what her colleagues and students have known for a long time: Dr. Shaw is an inspiring and dedicated educator with a passion for teaching and a talent for engaging her students.”
The Professor of the Year award salutes undergraduate instructors in the country who have excelled as teachers and influence the careers and lives of their students.
“The core mission of a university is to educate students,” Shaw said. “This award is special because it’s one of the only national awards to recognize good teaching using innovative techniques and gathering evidence on what is effective.”
Shaw has dedicated 18 years to educating students.
During the past eight years, she has taught introductory-level physics, honors enrichment, interdisciplinary physical science and research methods courses at Columbus State.
“Her impact on my life is, without a doubt, substantial,” said Timothy Jones, a former student and now science teacher at Harris County High School. “She makes the material easier to understand by using neat demonstrations and effectively breaks down the material. In fact, there is an ongoing joke between my classmates about how garden gnomes were used to explain electricity. She used a princess blanket she borrowed from her daughter’s room and explained the concept of gravity. Little things like that allowed me to make better connections in physics and helped me understand it at a much deeper level.”
Just a month ago, the Southeastern Association for Science Teacher Education also acknowledged Shaw’s educational work by presenting her with the 2015 Rod Nave Award.
The Rod Nave Award is given to a supporter of the science education community. It is named after Georgia State University physics professor Rod Nave, who designated special classes for science teachers to use the latest technologies.
“Physics underlies so much of today’s technology,” said Shaw. “From the semiconductors that make computers possible to making relativistic corrections in satellite positions to developing the science behind cancer treatments, all of this affects peoples’ lives.”
Shaw also became the recipient of a Complete College Georgia STEM Innovation fund grant this year.
“This grant will afford Columbus State the opportunity to develop faculty learning communities and provide training and support to STEM faculty interested in improving students’ learning,” said Shaw.
Shaw earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. She also earned both a master’s degree in physics and doctorate in experimental condensed matter physics from Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla.
Shaw serves as a member of state and national organizations such as the American Physical Society, American Association of Physics Teachers, National Science Teachers Association and Association for Women in Science.
“I design class time so that students can be ‘active’ in their learning and have those ‘light-bulb moments,’” she said. “I’m privileged to work with CSU faculty and the UTeach Columbus team as we work together to bring research-based teaching techniques to the future math and science teachers of this area.”