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Professors Schmersahl and Sfiropoulos honored for innovative teaching

StewartAwardTwo Palm Beach State College professors started the 2014-2015 academic year on a high note after being named the winners of the Stewart Distinguished Teaching Award for their innovative work to engage students in their classes.

Christopher Schmersahl, who teaches English in Belle Glade, and Mike Sfiropoulos, who teaches developmental English at the Lake Worth campus, were announced the 2014 winners during Convocation Aug. 20 where PBSC leaders officially welcomed faculty and staff to the new academic year. Classes start Aug. 22.

“I am just so thrilled to be recognized for this achievement. When you love what you do and put all your heart into it, the gratification that your efforts have paid off is all the reward you can ask for,” Sfiropoulos said. “This gives me even more motivation to find innovative and more effective ways to reach my students, who are really the ones that I do this for.”

“I’m pleased to be recognized in this way,’’ Schmersahl said. “I also know that I could not have done it without the support and encouragement of my fellow faculty.”

A 10-member committee of faculty and administrators selected the winners for the award that is open to the College’s more than 330 full-time faculty and instructors. Each winner receives a $5,000 cash prize. Schmersahl and Sfiropoulos are among 16 professors to receive the award since it began in 2006 with a grant from the Douglas and Virginia Stewart Foundation.

As part of the self-nomination process, professors must demonstrate that they go above and beyond the norm by developing, implementing, assessing and analyzing learning practices to help students succeed in reaching their academic goals.

Schmersahl, who joined PBSC last fall, was selected for teaching writing and rhetorical skills through the use of “ethos, pathos and logos” using the critical thinking skills of argumentation and logic. Through the analysis of television commercials, print ads, example essays and PowerPoint lectures in his English Composition I course, students created their own commercial for a fictional product or service using at least two visual literary devices. Students then individually wrote response essays.

Prior to joining the PBSC faculty, Schmersahal worked as an adjunct professor at various colleges in St. Louis. He holds a master’s degree in English from the University of Missouri – St. Louis and a Bachelor of Arts in English and philosophy from Southern Illinois University- Carbondale.

Sfiropoulos was honored for a series of lessons titled “Edutainment: Learning English through Television” for his Advanced English course. These lessons were designed to promote more engaging and entertaining ways to deliver instruction and connect the content to student lives, while at the same time encouraging students to think critically about the usage of the English language they are exposed to through television or other electronic media such as Hulu.

He has taught at PBSC for 10 years. Prior to that, he taught at Broward College for three years. In addition to an Associate in Arts degree from Palm Beach Community College, Sfiropoulos holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and linguistics and a master’s degree in linguistics from Florida Atlantic University.

“They were very engaging kinds of activities that took everyday occurrences and even electronic media as a way to get students to be excited about the use of language and also creative ways to teach grammar by using real life TV,’’ said Dr. Anita Kaplan, dean of bachelor degree programs, who chairs the award selection committee. “It’s very much hands on student engagement that makes students active participants in the learning process.”

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