ABINGTON, Pa. — Liliana Naydan, assistant professor of English at Penn State Abington, is one of six faculty members University-wide to be honored with the 2019 George W. Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Naydan said that the nomination for the prestigious undergraduate teaching award came as a surprise.
Several of Naydan's students wrote letters of support for her, and as a result, Abington’s academic leadership endorsed her nomination. After a bout with the flu in the months following her submission of a packet documenting her teaching philosophy and credentials, she returned to campus to find a message on her office phone informing her of some “good news”: She and five fellow faculty members would be recognized for excellence in teaching at the undergraduate level, in honor of Penn State’s seventh president, George Atherton.
“I was shocked,” she said. “It made recovering from the flu a little easier.”
We checked in with Naydan recently to learn more about her teaching and research.
Penn State Abington (PSA): What is your teaching philosophy?
Naydan: I want my students to have meaningful experiences in the classroom that will connect with work they do outside the classroom, whether it’s community service, academic or professional work. I want to connect their experiences in writing and literature courses to real-life experiences they’re having and are going to have.
PSA: What are hallmarks of your teaching style?
Naydan: There are three important aspects to my teaching: I want to create active learning experiences for my students, opportunities for collaboration, and opportunities for conversation. And I care as much that students talk to one another as I care that they talk to me.
I want my students to write things that matter in the world. They develop presentations like they would for conferences or for colleagues in their jobs. Upper-level students build websites to give them a sense of the weight of their words. One student once said to me, 'Wait, my mother and grandmother will see this.” And I said, “Yes, they will!'
And that’s the idea behind my effort to invite students to make their work public. I want them to understand that they need to negotiate with the fact that lots of different people will see their work. If I can help them get their work visible to broader audiences, I do.
PSA: How do you address the digital space?
Naydan: Everybody writes in this digital world with social media. And I want students to write about important issues and pressing social concerns in order to develop into responsible citizens in our interconnected world.
It’s valuable for students to learn how to navigate digital and social media as writers. Facebook posts are multimodal and involve rhetoric. And just like social media platforms have rules and conventions for communication, so does academia. So students need to develop literacies of different spaces, platforms and communities.