(April 23, 2015) -- Mary McNaughton-Cassill, professor of psychology in the College of Liberal and Fine Arts, was chosen for induction into the University of Texas System Academy of Distinguished Teachers. McNaughton-Cassill is one of four UT System faculty selected for membership in the Academy this year. The group will be inducted at a ceremony April 29 in Austin.
The Academy of Distinguished Teachers, the only system-wide academy of its kind, was created in 2012 to recognize the most outstanding educators at UT's nine academic institutions. Members of the Academy serve as an advocacy group dedicated to enhancing teaching, fostering innovation in the classroom and promoting interdisciplinary perspectives on education. McNaughton-Cassill is the first UTSA faculty member to be inducted into the Academy.
"It is a great honor to have one of our UTSA faculty selected for this prestigious group," said President Ricardo Romo. "We are thrilled for Dr. McNaughton-Cassill — both for receiving this well-deserved recognition and also for the opportunity it affords her to share her vast knowledge of best teaching practices with an even wider audience."
McNaughton-Cassill joined UTSA in 1994, originally as an adjunct faculty member; she was promoted to full professor in 2014 in recognition of her sustained professional accomplishment and commitment to the university and its students. Over her career, she has become more and more convinced that caring is the key to creating a meaningful learning experience and that students are more committed to learning and understanding the material being presented when they are personally engaged with the person giving the lecture.
"If students could learn what they need to know simply by reading from books or web resources, or by completing assignments, the college classroom would have become obsolete long ago, she says. "In the midst of the ongoing national debate about how universities can best prepare students for the 21st century, it is easy to forget that the core of effective teaching has always been interpersonal interactions."
In short, she says, teaching excellence still depends in large part on human interactions.
Her students echo that philosophy.
"I do not think many realize the importance of a teacher-student relationship, but it is imperative in succeeding in education. It gives you that helping hand that many students need but have difficulty admitting," writes one of her former students. "Dr. McNaughton- Cassill … not only taught me the subject matter but life lessons, and I think that is what separates teachers from inspiring educators. Dr. McNaughton is an inspiring educator."
Another students writes, "Students can tell when professors are passionate about their work. Passion is what separates mediocre professors from those who are incredible. Dr. McNaughton-Cassill constantly demonstrates care, kindness, and a desire for her students to succeed."
Her selection for the UT System Academy of Distinguished Teachers is the latest in a long list of accolades for McNaughton-Cassill. At UTSA, she has received the Chancellor's Council Outstanding Teaching Award (2004), the Alumni Distinguished Faculty Teaching Award (2004), the Student Athlete of the Year Faculty Recognition Award (2007), the Honors College Outstanding Research Mentor Award, (2007), the Richard S. Howe Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award (2011), the President's Distinguished Achievement Award for University Service (2013).
In 2010, McNaughton-Cassill was recognized by the UT System with the Regents' Outstanding Teaching Award. Based on her Regents' Award, she was selected as a charter member of the UTSA Academy of Distinguished Teaching Scholars, which she co-chairs. She is frequently called upon, both within the university as well as locally and nationally, to serve on panels and conduct workshops pertaining to teaching practices and is particularly known for her discussions of classroom management, maintaining civility in the classroom, and handling student and faculty stress.
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