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UW-Eau Claire Nursing Professor CeCelia Zorn
Named Wisconsin Professor of the Year
MAILED: Nov. 21, 2002
EAU CLAIRE — Most college graduates can recall a professor who stood out as a great teacher. For nursing students at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, CeCelia Zorn is that professor — a remarkable teacher who believes in students and is devoted to their success.
In recognition of her exceptional achievements in nursing education, Zorn, a professor in the department of nursing systems in the UW-Eau Claire School of Nursing, has been named the 2002 Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Wisconsin Professor of the Year.
The award is given annually by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education to recognize the importance of undergraduate instruction at all types of higher education institutions. CASE began the Professors of the Year program in 1981. This year there are winners in 46 states, selected from 422 entries.
“I am awestruck by this award. I owe a great deal to my colleagues, who have been fantastic mentors,” Zorn said.
Both colleagues and students describe Zorn as a true master teacher, one who advocates for students, creatively teaches using a variety of methods and firmly grounds her teaching in the most recent research and theory.
“When I think of CeCelia, I think of the words of Emerson, ‘Our chief want in life is somebody who shall make us do what we can.’ For a generation of nursing students CeCelia is that somebody,” said colleague Mary Ellen Stolder.
Zorn began her teaching career at UW-Eau Claire in 1980. In 1996, she received the UW-Eau Claire Excellence in Teaching Award, one of the highest awards presented to faculty and determined by a university alumni vote. In the School of Nursing, she also received awards for excellence in clinical instruction and for faculty creativity and scholarliness.
“To observe Dr. Zorn in the classroom is as if one is watching a well-choreographed ballet,” said Mary Zwygart-Stauffacher, chair of the nursing systems department. “The discovery, the encouragement and the challenge to students to expand their thinking are all done with great ease, composure and refinement.
“She has the ability to create interesting, timely and relevant courses and never lose sight of the content required for the discipline,” Zwygart-Stauffacher said.
Zorn believes continued student and teacher scholarship is the goal of teaching and learning. To that end, she developed a course with an English professor to help undergraduate nursing students improve their thinking and writing skills.
“Although writing-to-learn is not a new idea, linking it so closely to a professional discipline, carefully shaping the approach to individual and small groups of students, and developing trusting and enduring student-teacher relationships pushed the idea to new levels,” Zorn says.
Provost Ronald Satz, who nominated Zorn for the award, cites her recent sabbatical as an example of her continuous search for new and better teaching methods. “Even though Dr. Zorn has received many acknowledgments of her teaching excellence, she continues to seek educational and experiential opportunities to enhance her teaching,” Satz wrote.
One of the results of that sabbatical, which focused on using the humanities to help students learn nursing, is a manuscript titled, “All the Voices in the Room,” co-authored by Zorn, five graduate students and her sabbatical mentor, an internationally recognized expert who uses drama as a teaching approach in higher education in Sweden.
The project, which will be submitted for presentation next summer at a national professional nursing education meeting, describes an assignment in which nursing education students and Zorn each selected a piece of art and described how it reflected their theory of education. A display of the art pieces in class became the catalyst for in-depth reflection and discussion about educational theory.
“Early on in my career I wouldn’t have been sure it was OK to try this approach to teaching,” Zorn said. “Now I trust the students’ ability to learn in any situation as long as we focus on the educational goal, always reflecting on personal and professional growth and learning.”
Zorn keeps up her clinical skills by working several shifts each month in the medical/neuroscience unit at a local hospital. “Patient contact strengthens my teaching and helps me stay grounded,” she says. “I learn firsthand what nurses are facing and can better prepare students for practice.”
“Dr. Zorn is one of the most amazing professors I have had the pleasure of learning from,” wrote Melyssa Heintz, a non-traditional nursing student. “She is a mentor and a counselor, an educator and an inspiration. She is one of those people that come into your life and leave a piece of themselves with you forever, and you feel truly blessed.”
“It is the daily and ordinary teaching and learning, walking side-by-side with students, where both develop a deeper role as scholars. It is in this daily-ness that scholarship lives and grows,” Zorn said.
She is the fourth UW-Eau Claire professor to be selected as the state’s top undergraduate teacher. Chemistry professor Jack Pladziewicz received the award in 1993; psychology professor William Frankenberger in 1995; and chemistry professor Scott Hartsel in 2001. Judges evaluate nominees in the following areas: impact on and involvement with undergraduate students; scholarly approach to teaching and learning; contribution to undergraduate education in the institution, community and profession; and support from colleagues and current and former undergraduate students.
Zorn received her bachelor’s degree in nursing from UW-Eau Claire, her master’s degree in nursing from California State University-Los Angeles and her doctorate from UW-Milwaukee.
The national and state winners of the U.S. Professors of the Year program will be announced and honored on Thursday, Nov. 21, at an awards luncheon presented at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: Nov. 21, 2002