Duff and Bang win 2020 Stewart Awards for teaching
Dr. Suzie Duff and Dr. Jang-Young Bang, who are both credited with launching a new program or initiative at Palm Beach State College, are the 2020 recipients of the Stewart Distinguished Teaching Award.
The Lake Worth campus professors were surprised with the news at a recent faculty forum. The award, which comes with a $5,000 cash prize for each winner, is the highest honor presented by Palm Beach State College for excellence in teaching and learning in the classroom.
“When I was hired full time, I remember going to Convocation, hearing the winners’ names called and thinking ‘that’s going to be me one day,’’’ said Duff, who teaches human services and psychology and serves as Human Services Department chair. “It’s super special that this has come to fruition for me.”
“I’m very grateful for the award,’’ added Bang, who teaches science.
A 16-member faculty committee, including past award winners, chose this year’s winners after an extensive self-nomination process that drew 12 applicants this year. Professors are required to demonstrate that they go above the norm by developing, implementing, assessing and analyzing innovative learning practices to help students succeed in reaching their academic goals.
Duff was chosen because of a “happiness project” she developed for her General Psychology class. She based the project on positive psychology research that suggests that people’s psychological health and wellness can improve by them adjusting their mindset to think more positively. She said the lesson helps students learn how to change their mindset in the present and gives them tools they can use in the future.
Starting at the beginning of the semester, they incorporate five small changes into their lives, including writing down 250 things for which they are thankful, journaling about five positive experiences, practicing meditation, conducting five acts of kindness and changing a physical behavior like drinking more water. They submit a journal at the end of the semester to document their work.
“What good is teaching them psychological theories, data from research or therapeutic modalities if they can’t learn how to apply the information to find joy in their lives? The idea is that we can’t just teach students information, test them on it and then send them on their way. We need to teach students how to apply what they are learning to their own lives,’’ said Duff, who holds a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Research Methodologies from Florida Atlantic University and a Master of Science in Counseling Psychology from Palm Beach Atlantic University.
Duff, a licensed mental health counselor, spent the first part of her career serving people in need, including adults with mental, physical and developmental disabilities and children who experienced abuse and neglect. She worked as an adjunct professor at PBSC before joining the faculty full time in 2012. Among her other achievements at PBSC, she partnered with Dr. George Stoupas, also a PBC professor, to help create the Bachelor of Science in Human Services degree program that launched this fall.
Bang was chosen for a review lesson, which was a take-home diagnostic quiz, he created for this General Physics 1 students that encouraged them to provide more reasoning and application of relevant principles used to get their answers. The diagnostic quiz, which they worked on in groups, was followed by a review, assessment and further reviews. The purpose was to enhance students critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
Since joining PBSC in 2014, he has taught both calculus- and algebra-based physics, conceptual physics, earth science, and some math courses. He served as Physical Science and Chemistry department chair from fall 2015 to spring 2020. As a member of eLearning and Instructional Technology Committee, he organized the Community of Practice for Lake Worth faculty. As a member of the College Affordability Task Force, he has led the Open Educational Resources Promotion Subcommittee. His physics students and he created PBSC’s Physics Club in fall 2015, and he has served as the Physics Club advisor since then. He holds bachelor’s degree in physics and philosophy from the University of California Berkeley and a doctorate degree in theoretical high-energy physics with a minor in mathematics from Indiana University, Bloomington.