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University of Iowa News Release


June 9, 2011

Four UI faculty members win top teaching award

Four University of Iowa faculty members have won the 2011 President and Provost Award for Teaching Excellence in recognition of their years of outstanding teaching. The recipients are: Paul Heidger, professor of anatomy and cell biology in the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine; Irina Kostina, lecturer in Russian in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; John Durham Peters, professor of communication studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; and Todd Pettys, professor in the College of Law.

The award, which is administered by the UI Council on Teaching, was created in 2004 as a University-wide recognition for faculty members who have demonstrated a sustained, high level of teaching excellence.

Heidger not only teaches medical, dental and graduate students about cell, tissue and organ biology, but also helps them to hone problem-solving skills they continue to use throughout their careers. He is dedicated to his students' development as excellent communicators, lifelong learners, and providers of meaningful service to others and to their professions. Students find him a nurturing and compassionate mentor, a champion for their success, and a role model who exhibits the traits of humanism that are vital to health care practice. An international leader in developing new approaches for teaching histology to medical students, Heidger also has served as course director or co-director for several undergraduate courses, including those in the Literature, Science and Arts Program. He earned the M.L. Huit Award in 1989; a Collegiate Teaching Award in 1999; The J.P. Long Award in 2006 and was named an Outstanding Medical Educator in 2010.

Kostina teaches beginning through advanced courses in Russian language, culture, folklore and history. Believing that a good teacher is "an expert, an artist and an actor," she engages students by fostering a varied and creative environment in which students not only learn through traditional methods such as grammatical drills, but also correspond with Russian pen pals, act out verbs of motion or sing Russian folk songs during breaks between intensive class sessions. Kostina created many of the courses she teaches and has taken the lead in curriculum development for the program. Her work on two U.S. Department of Education grants has helped earn the UI national recognition for teaching innovation, and her advanced Russian textbook is used in multiple countries around the world.

Peters, Baird Professor and chair of the Department of Communication Studies, has earned a reputation as a generous and supremely effective teacher and mentor to undergraduate and graduate students alike. He is known for using innovative and interdisciplinary strategies to help students grasp concepts and adopt new perspectives, and for his own boundless intellectual curiosity. He thrives on the challenges of teaching in very different course formats, from first-year seminars to large lecture classes. His many contributions to the curriculum include creating and continuously revising the introduction-to-the-major course "Core Concepts of Communication," and he worked with the Department's Undergraduate Affairs Committee to redesign the undergraduate major. He received the Collegiate Teaching Award in 2007.

Pettys, who holds the H. Blair and Joan V. White Chair in Civil Litigation and also serves as associate dean for faculty in the College of Law, is a "master teacher" and dedicated mentor known for his deep commitment to student success both in and beyond the classroom. The learning environment he strives to create inspires and empowers students to become active and engaged partners in their own education. He was instrumental in the development of a highly successful professionally run legal research and writing program that is in large part responsible for employers considering an Iowa Law graduate as one of the best trained in writing among law graduates in the country. He won the Collegiate Teaching Award in 2001.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Michael Eckert, Council on Teaching, 319-335-1619,; Kelli Andresen, University News Services, 319-384-0044,