February 2020: Emmanuel Frimpong
Professor of Fish and Wildlife Conservation in Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment
2020 Excellence in Teaching Award from the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Virginia Tech
The award, presented by the center to approximately nine Virginia Tech faculty members each academic year, recognizes a faculty member's effective, engaged, and dynamic approaches and achievements as an educator.
“I am very honored to be recognized by CETL,” Frimpong said. “This award validates my personal philosophy that teaching is not just the ‘other’ thing I have to do as a researcher, but an important mission of Virginia Tech and my main opportunity to positively impact the career of many of our undergraduate students.”
Among the goals of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning are advancing experiential learning at Virginia Tech and improving student learning through research-based instructional practices and student-centered design. Frimpong’s hands-on approach to teaching aligns with this mission, as his goal is to make learning more accessible and action-oriented for his students.
“I think using a variety of teaching techniques, especially discussion based methods, is more inclusive,” Frimpong said. He has worked hard to convert traditional lecture material to learner-centered activities in order to better reach all of his students. As a result, Frimpong said, student performance and participation has improved significantly.
Frimpong also prides himself on creating a well-designed learning experience marked by its rigor and intentionality. His students come to appreciate the challenges that he presents in his classes. “Hearing back from my students that they appreciate all the hard work I made them do to pass my class and feel confident that they know the subject are my most rewarding and lasting memories,” Frimpong said.
Emma Hultin, an undergraduate mentee of Frimpong’s, is one of the many students who have expressed their appreciation of his rigorous and nurturing leadership. “I think Dr. Frimpong’s greatest strength as a teacher is his ability to push students’ limits while still providing the support and guidance needed for them to succeed,” Hultin said. “He is an incredible mentor and always has his students’ best interests at heart.”
Frimpong pairs his high expectations with the steady support that students need to succeed. Joseph Famularo, a former student, spoke highly of Frimpong’s guidance as an educator and mentor. “Dr. Frimpong is an engaging and supportive teacher in the classroom, and is heavily invested in the success of his students,” Famularo said. “There are few instructors I have interacted with who have had such a profound impact on me; his teaching, advising, and our friendship have completely altered my life’s trajectory.”
Frimpong’s advice to new faculty emphasizes developing an authentic and comfortable teaching style over time. “Be as much yourself as possible when teaching,” he advised. Frimpong develops the strongest connection with students when he teaches material in the ways that he learned it himself. “That might mean that I do some things differently than the way other successful teachers do, but if I can verify that the students have learned what I taught, then I have been an effective teacher.”