TOWNSHIP — Michael Maher, professor of sociology at Spoon River College, was nominated for the 2021 Illinois Community College Trustee Association Full-Time Teacher Award. The award recognizes excellence in teaching, a teacher’s ability to take a personal interest in students and inspire enthusiasm through their teaching techniques.
This is the second time that Maher has been the ICCA candidate. He also received the H. Truman Standard Award for Teaching Excellence twice, in 2006 and 2016.
As he nears his 25th year of teaching at Spoon River College, Maher is focusing on social issues and inequality issues related to race and gender, and his teaching style is often described by students and his colleagues as being passionate. He doesn’t disagree with that, and maybe that’s because education itself is something Maher passionately values.
“Learning is often viewed as a purely cognitive exercise, but learning is also a deeply emotional experience. Teachers who successfully merge the cognitive and emotional components of learning are better equipped to teach in meaningful and life-changing ways.
Developing a rapport with students both inside and outside the classroom is key to Maher’s teaching style and it starts with the way he organizes his class; he arrives fifteen minutes earlier to prepare his material, put on some music and speak with the students when they arrive. “The opportunity to speak with the students before class is an important moment. When an inviting environment is created, students are more likely to show up to class on time and often arrive early to participate in the discussion. When students start talking before class, they engage more quickly when class begins.
He continues this commitment outside of the classroom by making a point of attending student events where possible, such as Phi Theta Kappa inductions, theatrical performances and sporting events.
Maher was the driving force behind the implementation of an annual college theme – now in its twelfth year – as a way to promote the value of general education courses. “Helping students
Understanding the value of these courses and the purpose of a liberal arts education has always been a passion of mine, ”said Maher. “The goal is for students to see the overlap of academic disciplines and appreciate the contributions made by various fields. “
Maher’s passion for education extends to those outside of college. “I have understood the meaning of the word ‘community’ in community colleges, and I believe it is important to provide learning opportunities for citizens of the communities served by Spoon River College. He has been a guest speaker at WIU and the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Macomb, has offered community education courses in Canton and Macomb, and over the summer has offered a series of courses to all employees of the CBC.
Have a deep appreciation for the history of the college governance system within higher education – “It fosters collaborative decision-making and promotes student-centered, learning, and teaching-centered decisions.” – Maher has served on at least one standing committee almost every year of his tenure, including eight years as president of the college Senate. He was president of the faculty union three times, served for several years on the executive committee of the union and participated in contract negotiations. For the past six years, he has been President of the Social, Behavioral and Health Sciences Division.
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Feedback from students supporting Maher’s appointment made it clear that he was successful in achieving his goal of bonding with those in his class. “Sir. Maher inspires students with his passion, always lets us speak freely, makes his textbooks affordable and emphasizes that we are all sociologists at heart,” one said, while another wrote: “ He holds out his hand when he notices someone is struggling, and he never leaves him. We are lost and confused. I have taken several courses from Mr. Maher and he never misses the lessons. He is still in school. walks forward, greets us and is enthusiastic about what he teaches.
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What’s the one thing Maher would like his students to understand about a college education?
“Education is a vehicle for a better career and a better quality of life in general, but education means more than a career path or an income. Education leads to reflection, informed decision-making, questioning and changing your mind. I want my students to be successful professionally, but more than that, I want my students to find out what excites them, what excites them and what really matters to them.