April 27, 2007

McGlinn named top term faculty teacher

by K.C. Jaehnig


Caption follows story

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Shirley J. McGlinn, longtime instructor in Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Medical/Dental Education Preparatory Program, has won the University's top teaching honor for faculty members not in tenure-track positions.

McGlinn will receive $3,000 through SIUC's "Excellence Through Commitment Awards Program" that rewards ongoing contributions by tenured and term faculty, staff and graduate assistants throughout the University. She also receives a personal parking space for a year and a wristwatch provided by the SIU Alumni Association.

McGlinn and the program's other winners were recognized at a dinner hosted by interim Chancellor John M. Dunn Thursday, April 26, at the Student Center.

McGlinn began her professional career with the University's School of Medicine, teaching histology to first-year students. For the past 24 years, she has taught not only histology, but biology, endocrinology, problem-solving and problem-based learning techniques for MEDPREP, which helps educationally or economically disadvantaged students prepare for admission to and success in medical and dental schools.

Several of McGlinn's colleagues cited her development of creative strategies to help students learn.

Evelyn W. Jackson, an associate professor now retired who taught in MEDPREP with McGlinn, recalled as an example that McGlinn used small-group sessions to have students teach each other the material.

"Not only were they expected to answer her questions, at any time during a student's explanation, another individual could be called on to pick up the process and continue the teaching," Jackson wrote in a letter supporting McGlinn's nomination for the award.

Kathleen A. Jones, chair of MEDPREP's Student Progress Committee, noted that McGlinn developed comprehensive packets for students and gave students assignments that helped them "understand research articles, assess persuasive arguments and gain an appreciation of journals that can provide additional information.

"She has also developed a quiz/test self-assessment form that is designed to help students determine whether their difficulty lies in a lack of knowledge or if it is a problem with test taking."

In a statement describing her educational philosophy, McGlinn wrote that she tried to help her students learn not just the material they would need to get into professional schools but an approach to life as well.

"My specific objectives are to facilitate the development of problem-solving skills, self-directed learning, self-assessment strategies and interpersonal skills, as they build a strong, usable knowledge base of a subject," she wrote.

McGlinn's concern for her students is evident by the amount of time she devotes to them and not just in, or preparing for, class.

"She has an open-door policy that brings new meaning to the term," Jackson wrote.

"Shirley will meet with an individual or a group at their convenience and has been known to do so at 6 a.m. or 9 p.m. any one of the seven days of the week."

Jackson also praised McGlinn's ability to evaluate student learning as a key strength in her teaching.

"She understands the value of learning from a mistake and will rarely return just a score. She provides constructive comments and asks probing questions on quiz and test papers that are returned promptly to students. Her students are encouraged to utilize this information to refine their understanding and strengthen their grasp of material."

That the students "get it " is clear from her course evaluations. While the words "challenging" and "thought provoking" come up quite a bit, so does the word "fair." Several of them even wrote that they enjoyed the exams and quizzes.

"I wanted to see if I could figure everything out," wrote one. Another wrote, "They required piecing together what we learned in order to reach the answer. Kind of like a puzzle."

Some of her former students wrote letters detailing McGlinn's contributions to their lives and their professional success.

James C. Wright, now a resident in anesthesiology at Saint Louis University Hospital, wrote that as a graduate student he learned how to be an effective teaching assistant by following her example. He relied on her class handouts as references during his first two years of medical school. Noting that he had two bachelors', a master's and a medical degree under his belt, he wrote, "I have been a student of many teachers but have never had a teacher as effective as Ms. McGlinn."

Wanda Williams, presently enrolled in medical school, wrote that she wouldn't have made it there without McGlinn.

"A lot of what I learned in her class, I am still currently using as a solid foundation and building upon, " she wrote.

"Mrs. McGlinn has been a significant driving force in my life, motivating and encouraging me to do my best in all that I do. She continues to give me positive encouraging reinforcement which is critical for optimal performance in medical school."

Robyn Iglehart, who began her letter with Langston Hughes' poem "Dreams," wrote that she came to MEDPREP after applying unsuccessfully to medical school and was at a crucial point with regard to both her career and her future. After completing the MEDPREP program, she applied to several medical schools, received acceptances to all and took her pick.

"In 2004, I was awarded my medical degree from the University of Cincinnati School of Medicine," she concluded. "As I held fast to my dream, Mrs. McGlinn, my advisor, held it as if it were her own."

McGlinn, who received an Education of Minority Youth Award from the Associated Medical Schools of New York in 2000, has been previously named the SIUC medical school's Teacher of the Year three times and the MEDPREP Faculty of the Year six times.

She earned her bachelor's degree in 1966 from St. Mary College in Leavenworth, Kan., and her master's degree in 1975 from the University. She and her husband, who live in Carbondale, and their two children are all SIUC alumni.

Caption: Top term faculty teacher – Interim Chancellor John M. Dunn (left) congratulates Shirley J. McGlinn, instructor in Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Medical/Dental Education Preparatory Program, who won the University's top teaching honor for faculty members not in tenure-track positions.

Photo by Steve Buhman