WMC teacher gets top award 'Skip' Fennell named Professor of the Year

October 24, 1997|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

ANNAPOLIS -- Western Maryland College's Francis M. "Skip" Fennell was honored yesterday as Maryland Professor of the Year -- the second WMC faculty member to achieve that recognition in the award's 16-year history.

Fennell, an education professor who joined WMC's faculty in 1976, received the award from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. He was honored yesterday at the State House by Gov. Parris N. Glendening and a crowd of well-wishers from the college.

"Skip is not only a gifted teacher, he is a skilled author and an innovator in education," Glendening said.

Asked whether the award marks the pinnacle of his career, Fennell said, "It's a phenomenal honor that I'll treasure, but I have no thought of retiring. I've got classes to teach, books to write, lectures to prepare."

The governor cited Fennell, 53, who is on a one-year leave of absence with the National Science Foundation to work on a mathematics project, as an example of the excellence in teaching that is prevalent among thousands of educators on nearly five dozen campuses in Maryland.

"I do not want to dilute the importance of this honor," Glendening said. "But I do believe we should find new ways to recognize excellent teaching on our campuses because it is deserved and necessary to encourage those who follow in Skip's footsteps."

The governor, a former professor, celebrated "the fraternity of people who teach college students," saying that "within that fraternity, there exists a special understanding and appreciation for the work of the very best teachers among us."

The fundamental purpose of teaching is to open the hearts and minds of students, Glendening said.

"I understand the need for research, to publish and win grants," but "the danger is that we lose what is most important" -- classroom teaching, he said.

Fennell "has done it all," said WMC President Robert H. Chambers. Fennell teaches courses in mathematics and is chairman of the education department. He is the author of a series of math textbooks and has published numerous articles.

"He is a marvelous teacher, a great human being, and a super scholar," Chambers said. "He is an individual dedicated to opening both the minds and hearts of his students -- and his colleagues as well."

After receiving a standing ovation from family, friends, colleagues, and former students, Fennell thanked many of them by name and spoke of how his career had been shaped by teachers in kindergarten through 12th grade all over the country.

"I've been teaching kids mathematics all my career," Fennell said. "I believe all children should receive math instruction, perform at a very high level, and enjoy it."

Fennell saluted longtime friend Brian Lockard, superintendent of Carroll County public schools, noting that South Carroll High School science teacher Robert Foor-Hogue was honored this month as a Maryland Teacher of the Year -- "a double celebration" for the county, Fennell said.

Among those present to honor Fennell yesterday was Ira G. Zepp, a WMC religious studies professor who was the state's first Professor of the Year in 1981.

Fennell was nominated for the award by the faculty and staff at WMC, said a college spokesman.

Fennell also received the Outstanding Mathematics Educator award from the Maryland Council of Teachers of Mathematics in 1991 and wrote a "Numbers Alive!" series for Maryland Public Television in 1994.

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is a policy center in Princeton, N.J., devoted to strengthening U.S. schools and colleges. Winners were announced yesterday in 48 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands.

Pub Date: 10/24/97

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