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December 2019: Sterling Nesbitt

Sterling Nesbitt

Assistant professor of Geobiology in the Department of Geosciences

2019 Excellence in Teaching Award from the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Virginia Tech

The award recognizes faculty members for effective, engaged, and dynamic approaches and achievements as educators. The center presents the award to approximately nine Virginia Tech faculty members each academic year.  

“I am extremely excited to be recognized for teaching,” Nesbitt said. “We have amazing students in the College of Science and I am honored to help them on their path to understand the world around them, both now and in the past.”

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. Nesbitt’s personal approach to teaching aligns with this philosophy, as his goal is to help students think and create their own knowledge.

Shuhai Xiao, professor of Geobiology, speaks highly of Nesbitt’s talent for hands-on instruction and experiential learning. “For example,” Shuhai said, “he brings a carefully chosen specimen--he calls this ‘object of the day’--to each lecture to illustrate the most important concepts.” Shuhai also commended Nesbitt for his integration of hands-on dissection and fossil preparation labs into his undergraduate teaching work.

Nesbitt is admired in the College of Science for his commitment to student-centered learning and research. Alex Bradley, a former student and current mentee, said that Nesbitt’s mentorship has been invaluable in and out of the classroom.

“Whether through volunteer work in the fossil preparation lab, fieldwork across the country, or independent research, Sterling was always providing opportunities for me to advance in my academic career and pushing me to go further than I ever thought I could,” Bradley said.

Another mentee, Hunter Edwards, said that Nesbitt is fully committed to improving student learning and research-based instruction.  

“Sterling’s passion for educating students in the classroom, and the community through outreach events, is inspirational,” Edwards said. “Sterling constantly researches new and innovative ways to present information in the classroom, advancing his teaching abilities and the students’ understanding of subject material.”

For Nesbitt, the most meaningful experience as a teacher has been his time spent building community. Fostering connections among students and faculty is foundational to his teaching philosophy, and students carry this network with them as they progress in their learning. “It was amazing to see this community is maintained in later courses inside and outside the classroom,” Nesbitt said.

Nesbitt’s advice to new faculty reflects his commitment to student success. “Engage students as much as possible,” Nesbitt said. “Helping them ask questions is critical to their success at VT and beyond.”