2015 Distinguished Contributors
Donna Patterson, Susan O’Connor, and Joan Kunz
Joan Kunz, Professor of Chemistry, Excellence in Teaching
Joan Kunz is recognized for her commitment to Augsburg’s students, embodying the College’s mission to “educate students to be informed citizens, thoughtful stewards, critical thinkers, and responsible leaders”. Since 1987, Joan has worked toward creating and sustaining a vibrant learning community in the sciences, and helping students to gain mastery of fundamental chemical concepts (regardless of their major) and inspiring students to be hard workers and better people. To use the words of Bill Nye the Science Guy, Joan hopes to “Change the World!” through science education, one student at a time.
To quote student comments, Joan is known for “correcting every test and assignment by the next class period so the students can get quick feedback of their work”; and for “bringing an educated, insightful and interactive personality to the classroom. She teaches course materials in a clear and organized fashion, and never fails to address a student’s questions.”
Susan O’Connor, Associate Professor of Education, Excellence in Advising and Mentoring
Susan O’Connor is passionate about changing the education experience for students who are labeled and creating citizen teachers who mentor their students with special needs to be active and engaged citizens. She believes that public achievement provides Augsburg students with such a tool. According to Peg Finders, Education Dept. Chair, “…Donna and Susan deserve to be recognized for the ways in which they build relationships with potential partners, provide assistance to the local teachers and Augsburg students who are learning the processes of Public Achievement and most important for their passionate, active participation in the Public Achievement work with children, teachers, and Augsburg students. Their mentoring goes far above and beyond what some might think is required. This public achievement model changes lives for students in special education by giving them voice to act as citizens in a democratic society. It wouldn’t be possible without the mentoring.”
Susan also helped develop the Naadamaadawin Tribal Cohort to increase the number of Native American special education teachers. According to Dr. Gretchen Irvine, “I have seen the way they have built relationships with students in the Tribal Cohort, faculty at UMD and support staff and community partners to make it possible for students to move forward and complete a challenging program.”
Susan said her many overseas experiences, particularly working in Arab countries and the Middle East have influenced her teaching and philosophy and has helped her learn to reach across cultures in her work..
She is also responsible for starting a Special Education Department and major at Augsburg.
Donna Patterson, Assistant Professor of Education, Excellence in Advising and Mentoring
Donna Patterson is recognized together with Susan O’Connor for their work in bringing Public Achievement (PA) into the special education teacher training program in the Department of Education. Donna holds a passion for education professionals to not only be trained thoroughly in the technical skills needed to be a special education teacher, but also, and perhaps more importantly, to become leaders and change agents in education. As a vehicle for this passion, PA was enacted in fall, 2013 as a licensure requirement for all special education teacher candidates. PA is a youth civic organizing model that allows coaches to work with k-12 students in teams to take action on a public problem that is important to them. Donna and Susan join them regularly to problem-solve, challenge biases and assumptions, to think and act across boundaries, to gain the confidence to challenge the status quo, and to become “citizen teachers.”
A former PA coach states: “Personally, PA has changed the way I see myself as a future teacher. This PA project has challenged my assumptions. I now have a new understanding of civic engagement as a teaching tool and philosophy capable of bridging the divide between special education and the greater community. I am a better citizen, better community member, and better parent as result of being part of this project. I refuse to accept any less of myself than what I ask from my students, and I am finding my public voice and civic commitment as a result. In the end, the biggest change I’ve seen is that we have transformed from being scared students to seeing ourselves as professionals.”
Nominator and Education Department chair Peg Finders writes that: “Donna and Susan have mentored Augsburg students across the metro area. Donna and Susan deserve to be recognized for the ways in which they build relationships with potential partners, provide assistance to the local teachers and Augsburg students who are learning the processes of Public Achievement and most important for their passionate, active participation in the Public Achievement work with children, teachers, and Augsburg students. Their mentoring goes far above and beyond what some might think is required.”