Two Shenandoah faculty members have earned the Transformative Teaching Award for their excellence and impact in educating and inspiring students.
This year’s winners are Bob Larson, D.M.A., associate professor of jazz piano and the Harrison Piano Chair at Shenandoah Conservatory, and Elizabeth Morghen Sikes, Ph.D., assistant professor of occupational therapy.
Formerly the Exemplary Teacher Award, the Transformative Teaching Award is given to faculty whose teaching embodies Shenandoah’s mission statement and core values. This year, an undergraduate faculty member (Larson) and a graduate faculty member (Sikes) were selected from more than 200 nominations. Nominations were solicited from the entire university community and are reviewed by the Transformative Teaching and Learning Advisory Board.
In the 16 nominations on Dr. Larson’s behalf, words like “dedicated,” “reassuring,” “kind,” “talented,” and “committed” were used over and over again when describing him. Larson’s students say that his trusted mentorship allows them to push beyond their comfort zones and that his unwavering encouragement motivates them to explore new avenues of musical expression regardless of their instrument of choice.
Dr. Larson has believed in me when no one else has. During my senior year of high school, I was really conflicted as to what to do for college and whether I should go to SU or not. I had a lot of concerns, insecurities, and financial questions. Dr. Larson took me under his wing and gave me free private lessons during my last semester of high school. He helped me prepare for the audition, and even played with me on audition day because I was so nervous. When I had a question about anything, he would always direct me to someone that knew the answer. I still don’t see what he sees in me, but I’m so thankful for his impact on me.”
One of Dr. Larson’s students
Larson retires this year after starting at Shenandoah in 1982.
Dr. Sikes was awarded the teaching award for engaging with students both inside and outside of the classroom and valuing the power of relationships and creativity in her work. According to her students, Sikes always prioritizes the understanding and learning of her students over all else and has no reservations about changing a lesson plan in the moment in order to focus on what they need. Her students report that she constantly goes above and beyond, even when her plate might be full.
To that end, Sikes champions students and encourages them to challenge themselves and each other to be the best practitioners they can be. Her commitment to and pursuit of transformative teaching led one of her students to say:
Dr. Sikes has inspired me to consider academia because of my non-traditional learning style. Her shared history of not being a great student, despite all of her education and degrees, speaks to me and demonstrates that the true power and purpose of education is not to make students fit into a box of expectations but to help meet the student where he/she is to encourage interaction and engagement.”