Dr. Richard Pennington understands very well why students struggle with chemistry. He struggled with it himself during high school in Manchester, England.
“At that time my self-confidence was not high so this was a real blow,” he said. “But with help from a tutor, I managed to take my chemistry grade from an F to a B and learned then how much a student could be affected by a teacher.”
That lesson influenced his educational philosophy – that any student can succeed when given the resources and tools to do so. Pennington does not lecture, preferring a dynamic environment that engages students in learning.
“For some students, that’s initially a tough transition, but in most cases they come round and appreciate what I am trying to do,” said Pennington, now an associate professor of chemistry at GGC.
Actually, his students did more than “come round.” They nominated him for the 2013 University System of Georgia Board of Regents’ Teaching Excellence Award – and he won.
The award recognizes faculty who significantly improve student success and demonstrate innovative teaching techniques and programs. The description fits Pennington, whose students describe him as structured, engaging and innovative. For example, he created almost 200 preparatory videos for his chemistry courses. Available to any GGC student, the videos have been accessed more than 15,000 times, a tribute to their usefulness.
“Winning teaching awards is truly a career milestone,” said Pennington, a charter GGC faculty member. “This award validates my career choice and makes me realize that I am very lucky to do what I really enjoy doing.”
Pennington’s publication record includes book chapters, numerous academic journals and presentations at several regional and national conferences. He has received two teaching awards and a national Blackboard Catalyst Award for Innovative Use of Mobile Technology (see related story).
Pennington quotes an inspirational comment from a rather unconventional figure, professional wrestler Ric Flair, who said, “There is nothing like the respect of your peers and the people you work with.”
“I find that an atmosphere where that statement is true, both in the classroom and working with my peers, contributes enormously to my motivation to improve,” Pennington said. “Respect from students cannot be overstated, as it totally affects the dynamics of the classroom, and without it, as an instructor you’re sunk.”
His students clearly think Pennington is doing just fine.
To view examples of Dr. Richard Pennington’s instructional videos, visit his YouTube channel.
GGC’s previous two award winners
In only seven years, three faculty members have won the USG Teaching Excellence Award, indicative of the quality of Georgia Gwinnett College’s faculty.
In 2009, Dr. Candace Timpte, associate professor of biology, became GGC’s first faculty member to receive the award.
Dr. Jessica Damián, now assistant director, Center for Teaching Excellence, and associate professor of English, won the award in 2011.
Award recipients receive $5,000 and a certificate of achievement.