Highland News Leader

Highland native receives teaching award from SIUE

Mary Plocher
Mary Plocher Provided

Mary Plocher, an instructor in the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Department of Social Work in the College of Arts and Sciences, has been named as one of the university’s Teaching Distinction Award winners.

Plocher’s credentials include a master’s in social work from Aurora University in 1979 and a license in clinical social work. The Highland native first joined the SIUE faculty in 2000 for a six-year stint and returned in 2013.

The Teaching Excellence Awards committee complimented Plocher as a thoughtful, energetic educator who draws on her wealth of experience in education and professional practice. She also impressed with her ability to create safe spaces for students to share their views, upholding SIUE’s values of openness and inclusion. By facilitating respectful dialogue, she builds great rapport with students.

“Students need to know and understand basic facts and concepts, but are most likely to best comprehend what they have experienced,” said Plocher, who will also receive $1,500 to go along with her award. “The application of knowledge is essential to the students’ mastery of skills and their capacity to critically think.

“As an instructor, I focus on the acquisition of skills in order to help my students feel confident and well equipped for their future practice in the real world. Focusing on the students’ needs first and foremost is a recipe for success in the classroom.”

Other awards went to McKenzie Ferguson, Ph.D., who was the recipient of the annual Teaching Excellence Award for tenure-track faculty. It is the most prestigious teaching award for an SIUE faculty member.

Amelia Perez, Ph.D., also received a Teaching Distinction Award. Perez is a recipient for her work as an associate professor in the School of Nursing.

Five Teaching Recognition Awards were bestowed upon Johanna Schmitz, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Theater and Dance; Nader Panahshahi, Ph.D., professor of civil engineering; specialist Brent Vaughn; instructor Jean LaFollette in the School of Nursing; and Miranda Wilhelm, Pharm.D, associate clinical professor of pharmacy practice.