Jaus named a finalist for University’s top teaching award

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

College of Education professor Hal Jaus is the third of five finalists for the 2012 Bank of America Award for Teaching Excellence to be profiled in Inside UNC Charlotte. The recipient of the honor, UNC Charlotte’s top teaching award, will be named at a special reception, Friday, Oct. 19. The other finalists will be featured in alphabetical order in the weeks prior to the reception.

On Nov. 15, 2010, Hal Jaus, professor of elementary education, opened an email to find the following message from a student he taught in his Introduction to Education class more than 20 years ago:

“… The intent of this email…is only to tell you of your significance…As a young man in his late 20’s, I was searching for my place in the world…As I soul-searched, I…took a class at UNC Charlotte….while my soul searching may have led me to my career choice as an educator, you made this class so dynamic and inspirational, that I wanted to be that kind of educator. In addition to a satisfying 18-year teaching career…I am regularly reminded that you made a class that could have been bookwork-/lecture-filled, into a captivating dynamic classroom….Thank you for your inspiration.”

Since joining UNC Charlotte in 1986, Jaus has received years of such praise from students lauding his energy, passion, knowledge and enthusiasm. One student wrote he is “one of the most outstanding and amazing teachers I have ever had. Dr. Jaus taught my mother a long time ago, and she … says the same thing.”

Jaus teaches two education courses regularly, and he rises to the challenge of teaching courses that require diverse pedagogical strategies. In the large introductory course that all education students must take, Jaus uses “coat hangers" such as humor, personal anecdotes and interesting examples to help students remain engaged. In his course on teaching science in elementary school, he uses research-based instructional methods, such as hands-on science activities, science experiments, group projects, cooperative learning and class discussions. “Something akin to magic occurs when Hal walks into a classroom,” commented a colleague, he “transforms it from an ‘instructional space’ to an environment imbued with joy for learning and inspiration for teaching.”

Author of 50-plus articles and a textbook that imparts his teaching methodologies, Jaus focuses much of his published research on strategies for generating creativity among young learners. Before proposing techniques to his students or practicing teachers, he tests them as a guest teacher in local elementary school classrooms.

In addition to teaching, Jaus has been recognized as an exceptional advisor and mentor. He was appointed the faculty advisor for the Teaching Fellows Class of 2000. His commitment to future teachers earned him the Teaching Fellows Outstanding Teacher Award for UNC Charlotte in 1996 and 2004, an honor bestowed by students who have won the N.C. Teacher Fellows scholarship and who are recruited from among the top high school students in the state.

One student recalled the first day of class when Jaus gave each student a handout with words of encouragement and inspiration: “Teaching is a magnificent profession and obsession. As a teacher you are a hero, a standup comedian, a ‘spare’ parent and the dealer of dreams and opportunities. Guard it all with great care and concern. This nation is counting on your success.”

These are words that Hal Jaus has embodied throughout his career.