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Gerber honored for outstanding teaching of first year students

BOONE—This year’s recipient of the Rennie W. Brantz Award for Outstanding Teaching in First Year Seminar has taught at Appalachian State University for 38 years.

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The $500 award is presented by University College and the general education program.

A long-time member of the faculty in interdisciplinary studies and the Watauga Global Community, Dr. Bud Gerber’s teaching assignments have included many upper division courses, but he has said that, “Freshmen and sophomores have been my interest and burden. Eighteen year olds are fascinating and challenging students.”

It’s Gerber’s teaching of First Year Seminar courses in University College and the honor’s program that garnered praise from students as well as colleagues. He’s known for a teaching style that lays the groundwork for students’ future academic success.

“Dr. Gerber made an excellent first impression of my studies at App State. He helped me build indispensable discussion, writing and even reading skills that I still am using in my junior year,” wrote former student Alyssa Ruberto. “Furthermore, I learned that I had been underestimating myself as a student before taking his class.”

Colleague Dr. Martha McCaughey, a professor in the Department of Sociology, wrote of Gerber’s innovative and quality teaching and his interaction with students. “I quickly realized that far from being burned out or cynical about the students he taught, Bud was the most enthusiastic member of the faculty, eager to collaborate with his colleagues to create new classes relevant to the first year students.”

McCaughey also praised Gerber’s interaction with students that extended beyond the classroom, such as service projects and educational trips off campus.

Gerber’s rules of teaching include “Don’t waste students’ time,” something he learned from former colleague Kay Smith; “To know them is to love them,” which refers to knowing about students’ lives and interests; and “Be funny or die trying,” an admonition to remove pedantry from pedagogy by using appropriate humor to help students understand course material.

The award is named for Dr. Rennie Brantz who was director of Freshman Seminar for 14 years. Presented annually by Appalachian’s University College, the award honors an individual who demonstrates exemplary teaching and has made an impact on student lives in the First Year Seminar classroom.

“We often assume that first year students only like the teachers who are easy and have no boundaries,” McCaughey wrote in her nomination letter. “Bud is very well liked and yet extremely rigorous. He gives a mountain of reading, expects students to have read it prior to class. He is happy to give a quiz on the assigned readings, and give an F to someone who walked in late and missed the quiz. He shows students that he expects a level of intellectual engagement, maturity, dedication and respect that he himself models.”