The UWM Student Accessibility Center (SAC) honored the 2011 winners of the SAC Excellence Awards on May 13. The awards celebrate and honor faculty and staff who have demonstrated awareness of, and sensitivity to, students with unique needs, and a commitment to the principle of universal design in their approach to instruction, which benefits all students.
Teaching Assistant, Geography, College of Letters and Science
The nominator for Jonathan Hanes began the nomination with an explanation. “This semester has been a roller coaster of switching meds and hospitalizations. Although I am only taking one class, I wanted it to be a positive experience to look back on to remind me during the hard times that no matter what, if I stay strong, I can push through whatever comes my way.”
She says Hanes “told me not to worry and he would make accommodations for me to catch up once I got back. I was given lecture PowerPoints and a chance to finish assignments in a respectable time frame. Without question, he gave me the study guide and allowed me to take the [midterm] exam a week late when I told him I wasn’t yet caught up. If Mr. Hanes hadn’t been so accommodating I wouldn’t have done so well. Through a negative diagnosis, I have been given a positive class experience.”
Hanes currently teaches two classes for the Geography Department – Our Physical Environment and Introduction to Environmental Geography. He will receive his PhD in Geography next week.
When asked about his experiences teaching and teaching students with disabilities, Hanes stated, “I am sincerely grateful for the opportunity to work with students who have disabilities. As an instructor at UWM, I highly value the efforts of the SAC. In particular, I appreciate SAC’s desire to grant equal opportunity to students with disabilities while preserving the necessary rigor of higher education.”
Assistant Professor, Theatre, Peck School of the Arts
Jessica Maerz’s nominator says, “Dr. Maerz is an example of staff who understands that each student is different and knows how each student [obtains] information. She makes learning theatre history more than a lecture, she makes it as if we are experiencing it right now.”
The nominator describes how Maerz makes sure that everyone understands the material. “What makes her unique is that she is open to anyone – not just those with disabilities, but anyone who asks for help. If someone asks for assistance or a question, she has the answer; if she doesn’t know [the answer] she finds out and will let you know later. Dr. Maerz has the knowledge, but also the compassion for those different and alike.”
Maerz currently teaches Introduction to Theater, Theatre History I and II, World Theatre, Performance and Popular Culture, and an Independent Study in Dramaturgy.
When asked her thoughts on working with students and working with students with disabilities, she stated, “It’s easy to excel at working with students with disabilities here at UWM. The SAC staff is uncommonly helpful and supportive!”
Senior Lecturer, Sociology, College of Letters and Science
Mark Mantyh went “beyond the call of his duty,” according to his nominator. “He made sure that the movie shown in class included closed/open captions. Even when he had to take some of his class time to struggle [with technology], he would not give up until the captions turned on. If it still didn’t work, he contacted [UITS] to come and fix the problem.”
She also describes how Mantyh “took time to communicate with me often via email and in person; to be sure I was doing well in class. We had a big project that each student was to complete, and I ended up struggling with mine. Dr. Mantyh gave up his time to meet with me, and after he realized I needed more time, he allowed me the time. One time he made an error when submitting my final exam to SAC – he immediately walked over to SAC to provide me with the correct exam AND he admitted that he made an error, that is just how truly human he can be.”
Mantyh has been working at UWM since 1994. His classes this semester include Criminology, Social Change and Collective Behavior
Assistant Professor, School of Information Studies
Terrence Newell’s nominator is a disabled veteran who had spinal fusion surgery in August of last year, right before the fall semester began. This student requested to be switched from the online course to face-to-face in order to save money. Due to the surgery, the nominator also requested special seating in the course.
He states, “Professor Newell was instrumental in assisting me in the transfer into his in-person course and helped me to maintain my discreet seating arrangement as I attended school and recovered from surgery. If it weren’t for Professor Newell’s understanding, I may not have had such an easy transition.
“Maintaining my seating arrangement was a bit challenging when one day a student chose to take my table spot where I could take notes. When I took this problem to Professor Newell he was able to inform this student discreetly and I was back in my spot for the rest of the semester.”
Newell currently teaches Introduction to Research Methods, Instructional Gaming, and Human Factors in Information Seeking.
When asked about his thoughts on teaching and teaching students with disabilities, Newell stated, “I am the Departmental Accessibility Resource Coordinator (DARC) for the School of Information Studies. As a coordinator I serve as a nexus between the UD ITEACH Project and the school to promote universal design in higher education.
“I use best-practice, universal design techniques to reduce the number of learning barriers during the instructional process. As professors, we should not wait for a student to hand us a VISA; instead, we must actively work to design classes that are universally accessible.”
Associate Lecturer, Foreign Languages and Linguistic, College of Letters and Science
Sueyon Seo’s nominator asserts that, “I am extremely fortunate that there are instructors and faculty within UWM who strive to assist and accommodate students that have disabilities. I believe Seo meets and exceeds all criteria for this award and very much deserves the recognition.”
This student noted there were times when she was unable to attend class daily and that Seo “offered me assistance any time I needed it. When there were concepts that proved difficult for me, she would take the time to come up with new ways of presenting ideas until I truly understood.
“Ms. Seo would always patiently proctor my exams to accommodate me. There were several occasions where she would stay extra hours for my sake, despite the fact she teaches several classes, is a student working on her graduate degree and has children of her own to care for!”
Seo worked individually with the student over the winter break in order for the student to complete the course and move on to the next level of Japanese. The student states, “Ultimately, she provided me with hope and compassion that I desperately needed to overcome the myriad of complications my disabilities were causing me last semester. Without her help I doubt I would have been able to get all my work done before the spring semester. Your sacrifices and positivity mean very much to me and I hope the university sees what an asset your work here truly is. Arigatou gozaimashita.”
Seo, who currently teaches Japanese 202, is a dissertator in Education.
When asked about her thoughts on teaching and teaching students with disabilities, she replied, “For me, teaching is communication. I teach students and learn from them at the same time. Even though I teach the same course every year, students’ reaction [are] different. I really have learned that every student has his own talent, and I believe it is the most important thing for all educators to remember: to provide tailor-made education to each individual.”