Appalachian State University
2016 Excellence in Teaching Award Winner: Lisa A. Runner, Appalachian State University
Q. The Teaching Awards were established in 1994 to underscore the importance of teaching and to encourage, identify, recognize, reward, and support good teaching within the University. What does this award mean to you?
A. In recent years I have had the pleasure of celebrating with some amazing colleagues who received this significant recognition, never imaging that I might one day also be nominated. Receiving this award is humbling. I count it a great honor to be considered for an award dedicated to excellence in teaching. I hope it represents the lives I have touched in a positive way and will provide me an opportunity to highlight the Hayes School of Music and its faculty.
Q. What was your path into the teaching profession?
A. As the child, niece and younger cousin of seven public school teachers, I grew up certain that teaching was a career path I’d never follow. In reality, however, it is all I’ve ever done and all I ever wanted to do. As an undergraduate student, a professor took an interest in me and encouraged me to attend professional conferences and opened the door to a lot of opportunities that I would not have had otherwise. I began to see that teaching would really be rewarding.
Q. Besides this award, is there one particular achievement in your career that makes you especially proud?
A. While teaching provides great rewards on so many levels, I am especially proud of the times I’ve been able to restore a student’s belief in his or her abilities or awaken in them a new love of music.
For instance, I have seen a student’s desire to engage in music hampered as a result of criticism he or she received when a child. Oftentimes years into adulthood, the student thinks “I can’t” because of that criticism. When these students see that they can sing, or play drums or xylophones, it becomes a great celebration. I want my classes to be life lifting and reaffirming, and I want the experiences my students have and their time together to be positive.
Q. What teaching methods do you use to engage students?
A. I presently teach music methods classes for students preparing to be elementary school teachers and a general education music course that any student may enroll in. All of these classes are activity based. Elementary education majors might sit on the floor and learn a Native American stone passing game that can be used to integrate music into a social studies class. I also want these students to have hands-on experience with as many instruments as possible. For instance, the dulcimer is relatively easy to learn, space efficient and lightweight, and can fit easily into the elementary classroom if a teacher would like to have an instrument to accompany singing. Appalachian lap dulcimers also provide a nice connection with social studies and geography.
Students in my general education course regularly collaborate with partners, work in small groups and participate in hands-on activities requiring analysis and reflection. They play a wide variety of instruments as they compose and share a series of short pieces based on topics such as common occupations or statues installed on the Appalachian campus. I value the learning that occurs during this creative process and work to maintain a supportive classroom environment where students are willing to step out of their comfort zone in order to try new things.