Three College of Arts & Sciences faculty—five Ohio University faculty members in total—are among the more than 65 educators from across the state recognized in Ohio Magazine’s annual “Excellence in Education” issue.
The three are Dr. Klaus Himmeldirk, Senior Lecturer of Chemistry & Biochemistry; Dr. Lauren McMills, Assistant Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry; and Dr. Robert Klein, Associate Professor of Mathematics.
Each December, Ohio Magazine celebrates outstanding faculty members at college and universities throughout the state in its “Excellence in Education” feature. Criteria for this honor include:
- An individual’s teaching excellence
- Participation in professional development activities
- Interest in student success outside of the classroom or laboratory
- Distinction as a member of the academic community
The Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost nominated the five OHIO faculty members being featured this year. These five individuals hail from OHIO’s Athens and Lancaster campuses and were either finalists or winners of Ohio University teaching awards.
Earlier this year, Himmeldirk was named the inaugural recipient of the Provost’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.
“I was surprised but happy to be nominated,” Himmeldirk said of being featured in Ohio Magazine. “I feel honored to be considered for a recognition of my efforts in teaching.”
Himmeldirk’s research focuses on the chemistry of thiazolium ions (Vitamin B1) and the discovery of new anti-diabetic drugs that are derivatives from polyphenols (hydrolysable tannins). At Ohio University, he can be found teaching organic chemistry laboratory classes where he focuses on developing a more efficient, thought-provoking classroom experience.
“Learning happens when the minds of my students are willing to engage with the material that I present,” Himmeldirk explained.
Recognizing that the majority of his students are not seeking careers in organic chemistry, he employs a teaching philosophy designed to foster an appreciation for organic chemistry and to see the value in learning about it.
“One way to achieve this is by showing my students that organic chemistry can be a fun and a highly creative experience… to show the relevance chemistry has in our everyday lives,” Himmeldirk explained. “If I am able to convince my students that chemistry is fun and relevant, the chances that knowledge will be retained long after a final exam will be much improved.”
Klein serves as the Mathematics Department’s chair of undergraduate studies. In 2015, he was named a Presidential Teacher Award winner.
Klein’s Presidential Teacher Award as well as his Ohio Magazine feature recognizes his passion for teaching and learning, his teaching innovations, his contributions to the mathematics department, his ability to energize and motivate students in the learning of math, and his considerable outreach well beyond his college and Ohio University. In addition to educating and mentoring OHIO students, Klein is co-founder of the Southeast Ohio Math Teachers’ Circle and the Math League of Southeast Ohio and is involved in the Navajo Nation Math Circle Project.
“I was surprised and humbled to be recognized for excellence in education, especially because I am surrounded by so many amazing educators at Ohio University who impress me on a daily basis with their commitment, compassion and skills as educators,” Klein said.
Teaching and learning for Klein means both the student and the teacher develop together.
“The less talking I do in class, the more listening I do, the better teacher I become,” he explained. “I love our vibrant, dynamic Bobcat community and am grateful every day to be a part of it.”
McMills is undergraduate chair in the Chemistry & Biochemistry Department. She was a finalist for both the 2015 and 2016 Presidential Teacher Award.
McMills’ scholarly interests include solid state nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, magnetic susceptibility, chemical education, and peer-led team learning and active learning.
“I am honored and humbled by the nomination,” McMills said of being selected to be featured in Ohio Magazine.
McMills teaches large classes of 165 to 250 students, mostly first-year students who have diverse interests and majors as well as a variety of learning styles. She employs a variety of techniques during the progression of a class in order to engage all students in the class, including openly encouraging discussion and questions as a means to create a friendlier and more personal atmosphere in the large lecture setting.
“I ask a lot of questions to get students involved,” McMills said. “I try to model problem-solving techniques in order to give students the tools they need to solve any problem.
“I realize that a majority of students will not go on to become chemists,” she added. “But I hope that they learn critical thinking skills in class that will serve them well throughout their lifetime.”