Buena Vista University

Jerry Johnson Honored by BVU for Excellence in Teaching

May. 29, 2013

Jerry Johnson, assistant professor of digital media, was named the 27th recipient of the prestigious George Wythe Award, Buena Vista University's highest honor for excellence in teaching, at the annual Faculty/Staff Recognition Dinner on May 24.

Johnson, a 1985 graduate of BVU, has been a member of the faculty since 1998 and is the faculty advisor to the student-operated University Cable Network/UCN Studios. He earned his master's degree in mass communications at the University of South Dakota in 1996. He previously worked at Morningside College and KTIV Television in Sioux City and KDSM Television in Des Moines.

Johnson said, "I feel honored and excited about what the award means. There are so many opportunities for me to expand my horizons and share what I learn with my students."

The Wythe Award includes a $30,000 cash stipend and a sabbatical for the recipient to pursue professional development and/or research. "Whatever I do with the award will definitely have something to do with Disney!," says Johnson who is an avid fan of Walt Disney and has a Disney collection that spans decades and is displayed at home and work. Among options he is considering are a Disney storytelling internship at Disneyland or Walt Disney World; media research with the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, Calif.; a creative story telling media project with a team of BV students in Marceline, Mo., about Walt Disney's visit back to his hometown in 1959; and courses in the latest video editing technology.

Johnson says his teaching philosophy centers on believing in his students. "I try to develop an imaginative way to create excitement about the subject that excites students to get involved in the projects and in their own success. I incorporate hands-on learning opportunities with clear outcomes and believe it is important to celebrate student success."

Johnson was nominated for the Wythe Award by fellow professors, professional colleagues, alumni and current students. The other finalists for the 2013 Wythe Award were Dr. Joni Anderson, assistant professor of management; Mary Mello-Nee, associate professor of art, and Dr. Jason Shepherd, assistant professor of computer science.

In announcing Johnson's selection for the award, Dr. Brian Lenzmeier, professor of biology, and chair of the Wythe Committee, noted that the award is not about faculty accomplishments, but "about having lasting, meaningful impacts on students through teaching."

Lenzmeier cited comments from several colleagues and current and former students of Johnson who nominated Johnson for the award:

A colleague said: "Jerry helps students dream big… He is constantly helping students imagine more and then making sure they are prepared for that more. There are a hundred examples of Jerry working outside his class load long and odd hours to help a student build new skills and learn new things."

Another colleague noted: "One of Jerry's many virtues is his sense of joy. It would be difficult to find a moment when he is not smiling broadly or will within seconds. He enjoys his life. He enjoys teaching. He enjoys his students, no matter how frustrating they can occasionally be. He loves what he does and that communicates in the classroom and in the field as he takes students on an exciting educational journey…"

A current student commented: "Jerry has an encouraging attitude that is not self-serving, but inspiring to us… He understands the importance of growing professionally as students and encourages us to attend conferences and workshops with him in various areas of digital media. He wants us to be successful and find our passion."

A former student said: "I honestly have no idea what I would be doing today if it wasn't for Jerry. He's been an inspiration and mentor of mine for over a decade and we still speak often on the phone. I couldn't think of a professor more deserving of this award. His dedication, passion, knowledge and experience are unlike anyone I have ever worked with before."

The Wythe Award is endowed through a gift from the late BVU Life trustees Drs. Paul and Vivian McCorkle (Class of 1959). The award is named for George Wythe, the educator whose students included Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, James Monroe and Henry Clay.

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Buena Vista University
610 W. 4th Street
Storm Lake, IA 50588
800.383.9600

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