2016 Excellence in Teaching Award Winner: Stanley Schneider, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
As a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, Stanley Schneider wants to change the way students think about and live on this earth. “I want them to experience awe and a sense of privilege and responsibility for living on this planet.” Schneider’s passion for animal behavior, social insects (especially honey bees), and the evolution of social behavior is infectious and his students thrive under his guidance.
According to Schneider, teaching is a social interaction. It is the contagious enthusiasm of the teacher that captures students’ imagination and helps them dream. Excellent teachers are rigorous, fair, and demonstrate respect for students by holding them to high standards of performance by providing clear, organized, and relevant lectures. Importantly, Schneider firmly believes that active participation by students in the learning process is central to inquiry-based learning. To this end, his living legacy at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte is his excellence in integrating his teaching and research in the classroom. For Professor Schneider, exposure to the process of conducting research is the primary means by which students learn how new information is generated and synthesized into an existing body of knowledge. Since joining the UNC Charlotte faculty in 1985, Schneider has worked with approximately 140 graduate and undergraduate students through individualized instruction, many of whom have gone on to become productive biologists, teachers, researchers, and entrepreneurs.
Because of his research on honey bees, Schneider frequently is invited to give talks to beekeeping associations, gardening clubs, and birding clubs. Given the worldwide decline of pollinators, he sees these talks as one of the most important public services he can provide. His years of teaching undergraduates have taught him how to engage and motivate audiences and, therefore his public speaking is a direct consequence of his teaching experience.
Throughout his career, as principle investigator or co-principle investigator, Schneider has been awarded five major grants totaling more than $1 million dedicated to support undergraduate student research participation and training. He was a National Academies Education Fellow in the Life Sciences and attended the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Summer Institute for Scientific Teaching. Because of his outstanding ability to integrate teaching and research,
Schneider was inaugural recipient of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Award for the Integration of Undergraduate Teaching and Research in 2014.
Schneider earned his PhD in Animal Behavior from the University of California, Davis. He earned an MS in zoology and BS in education from Southwest Texas State University and has been a faculty member since 1985.
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. It is the greatest honor I have received in my career.
Q. What was your path into teaching?
A. I have wanted to be a teacher since I was in second grade. Teaching has been my only career choice for as long as I can remember.
Q. Besides this award, is there one particular achievement in your career that makes you especially proud?
A. The achievements I am most proud of come from my work with training undergraduate Honors students. I have served as the major advisor for a total of 17 Honors students during my 31 years at UNC Charlotte, and these are among the best and brightest people I have met. It has been an enormous privilege to be able to work with such gifted individuals and to be allowed to enter their lives for a brief time.
Q. What teaching methods do you use to engage students?
A. When teaching in the biological sciences, it is essential to integrate research into the teaching experience, so students understand how scientific knowledge is generated and how science is conducted. It is also important for the instructor to have a sense of wonder and excitement about the natural world. Teaching is a social interaction and the instructor's enthusiasm is what most inspires students to pursue their own dreams.