Voshell earns teaching award
By Stewart MacInnis
Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 29 - April 23, 1998
Searching for new ways to help students learn has led J. Reese Voshell Jr. to develop innovations that have had an impact beyond the classroom and into the lives of many of his students.
That talent also earned Voshell, a professor of entomology, the Certificate of Teaching Excellence from the university's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
"I had never been an excellent student and did not believe that I could succeed at Virginia Tech," said one recent graduate who is applying for graduate school. "I thank my lucky stars that I met Dr. Voshell at this time. He made all the difference for me."
That student, and others as well, cited Voshell's approachability, his interest in them as individuals, his innovative teaching techniques, and his mastery of his subject.
Timothy P. Mack, head of the department of entomology, said Voshell's classroom innovations and his enthusiastic teaching style are impressive. Voshell uses computer technology in many of his classroom presentations and he uses web pages to allow students to access materials at any time.
`This preparation time shows-his presentations are as good as any I have ever seen.' -Timothy P. Mack
"My guess is that he has spent more than 20 hours preparing each presentation," Mack said. "This preparation time shows-his presentations are as good as any I have ever seen."
His enthusiasm in stimulating active learning has led Voshell to add more problem-based activities to his courses, Mack said. He thoroughly prepares himself so he can help the students draw the proper lessons from their activities.
Voshell said the students deserve enthusiasm from their professors. "I am not an extroverted type of person," he said, "but I try to demonstrate enthusiasm in my own ways: preparedness, organization, rigorous course content, humor, friendliness, answering questions, meeting individually, and overall attitude. Whenever I interact with students in any capacity, I strive to make it clear to them that their education is important, my courses and my discipline are important, and there is nothing else I would rather be doing."
Voshell teaches undergraduate classes in aquatic entomology and freshwater bio-monitoring. He also developed and teaches three one-credit courses for elementary school teachers helping them bring entomology into their classrooms.
"It came to my attention that children are fascinated by insects and that insects are excellent models for teaching science and other components of elementary curricula," he said. "The teachers who take these courses are exceptionally enthusiastic about studying insects, and it is amazing how innovative they are at incorporating what they learn into their curricula."
In addition to teaching teachers, Voshell also joins with schools in presenting experiments or in conducting field trips.
Voshell was a high-school teacher following his graduation from Randolph-Macon College in Ashland. He earned a doctorate in zoology from Virginia Tech, and has been on the faculty here since 1976.