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August 2, 2017

Sue van den Heever selected for AMS Lorenz Teaching Excellence Award

Prof. Sue van den Heever has been selected as the 2018 recipient of the Edward N. Lorenz Teaching Excellence Award from the American Meteorological Society (AMS). One person is chosen annually for this highly competitive, national teaching award. As stated on the AMS web page listing the 2018 award winners, Sue is being honored “for enduring passion for teaching and mentoring, for engaging students both inside and outside the classroom, and for unrelenting dedication to training future scientists.”

In an announcement to the department, Department Head Jeff Collett said, “Those of us here in CSU ATS know well the outstanding job Sue does in both teaching and graduate advising, as evidenced by multiple department teaching awards and a recent university graduate advising award. It is terrific to see Sue also recognized at the national level for her excellence in these endeavors.”

A nomination letter and three supporting letters were required for consideration, with at least one of the supporting letters from a former student. Several of the department’s students and faculty members submitted letters. This excerpt from one of them explains how Sue’s classes are both challenging and rewarding:

“One leaves [a presentation given by Sue] feeling like an expert in the area, because Sue has so effectively described the science question, her approach, and findings, deconstructing even the most complex microphysical processes, and explaining the new insights gained from her work.

“Students flock to her courses, despite the heavy workload they frequently represent, because of how much they know they will learn during the semester.”

An excerpt from a second letter describes Sue’s teaching style:

“Sue’s command of the classroom is legendary. When she speaks, students listen. She uses a pointing stick and hand motions to animate the material, and she whacks the projector screen with the stick to drive home her points.

“[She] reframes the role of students as not just the receivers of knowledge, but as the generators of knowledge.”

The energy Sue brings to the classroom is illustrated in a third letter:

“Being a student in Sue’s classroom can be likened to having a stiff cup of coffee: while you may enter the classroom lethargic or weary, before the chalkboard has the time to warm up, you are making hand-waving gestures as visual aid while you argue your points for how and why a physical process operates as it does.”

Sue was grateful for the recognition that originated with her students and colleagues.

“I feel extremely honored to receive this award, especially given the list of past winners, all of whom are known to be outstanding teachers, mentors and educators. Being nominated by my students and faculty colleagues means so much to me, and ultimately is the best reward for any teacher and mentor,” she said in response to the announcement.

Sue will receive her award at the AMS Honors banquet in January in Austin, Texas.

More about the Edward N. Lorenz Teaching Excellence Award