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June 2020: Greg Tew

Greg Tew

Associate professor in the School of Architecture + Design within Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture and Urban Studies

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.

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. Tew centers accessibility and connection in his approach to teaching. “In my 30 years as a professor, the one certainty is that you can't teach anyone that doesn't want to learn,” Tew said. “And students are more likely to learn if they are encouraged to engage based on their history, values, ideas, ambitions, and goals. When trust is established, students are more open to consider ideas they had not previously considered.”

Tew is admired amongst colleagues for his ability to inspire and engage students in class material. Michael Ermann, a fellow professor in the School of Architecture + Design, spoke highly of Tew’s rapport with his students. “My class followed Greg’s Design Appreciation class in Hancock Auditorium for five straight years,” Ermann recalled. “On the last day of class, at least for each of the years I was present to witness it, Greg received an ovation from the 350 students enrolled. . .  a standing ovation! There was a line of students twelve-deep queued up to thank Greg and express a love for the class.”

In addition to learner-centered instruction, Tew brings practical experience into the classroom, helping his students to build competency in both theory and application. Alaina Garren, a former student of Tew’s, recognized his lasting influence on students in their careers. “Greg's years of professional experience coupled with his dedication to student success is apparent in both his engaging, conceptual lectures, as well as individual, in-depth design critiques,” Garren said. “Greg's expertise helped train me to see the world through a designer's lens, and cultivated an understanding in how to self-critique and improve my own work.”

This paradigm-shifting influence is at the heart of meaningful learning experiences for Tew and his students alike. Tew cited the unsolicited messages from former students expressing gratitude for eye-opening class discussions as some of his most memorable moments in teaching. “Like most jobs, teaching can be a grind,” said Tew, “But when a student takes 10 minutes to express their gratitude, those messages are the most memorable and appreciated experiences in my academic career.”

Tew had two pieces of advice to new faculty for engaging and effective teaching. “Laugh, and never assume you are the smartest person in the room,” he said. “Education should be fun, and while students might lack the breadth and depth of knowledge and experience faculty have, I'm often inspired by the things students know and their passion for life and learning.” Tew’s focus on building relationships and cultivating a dynamic learning environment reflects his commitment to instructional excellence. “Faculty should keep in mind that if all we do is convey facts, there is little need for us-- finding and learning to use factual information is so easy today,” Tew advised. “But when faculty can inspire and nurture new ways of seeing and solving problems, we have a reason to come to work every day.”