The secret to good teaching is patience and the ability to listen, according to Dr. Karen Fawley.
Fawley has learned both skills during a decade on the faculty in the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences at the University of Arkansas at Monticello.
“When I was younger, I used to get frustrated when I was not reaching a student,” Fawley admits. “I’ve learned patience through the years.”
Patience – and the ability to listen and learn from her students – is why Fawley is the 2016 recipient of the Dan and Charlotte Hornaday Outstanding Faculty Award. Fawley is the third consecutive member of the math and science faculty to win the award, and Fawley thinks she knows why.
“I’ve been at other places and what we have in math and sciences at UAM is unusual,” she says. “We all get along, we talk to each other about what we’re teaching. It’s a team effort to help and nurture our students to be successful, whether they’re applying for medical school or pharmacy school, or some other graduate program. You just don’t see that kind of faculty cooperation at other schools.”
“Karen is a rare combination,” says Dr. Morris Bramlett, dean of the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences. “She is a brilliant scientist and researcher, but she is also an outstanding classroom teacher. The fact that she brings that research knowledge to the classroom makes her that much more effective as a teacher.”
A native of Houston, Texas, Fawley joined the UAM faculty in 2006 and holds the rank of professor of biology. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin, a master’s degree from Old Dominion University, and a Ph.D., in botany from North Dakota State.
She is part of a husband-and-wife teaching team at UAM. Her husband, Dr. Marvin Fawley, is a professor and assistant dean for science and research with degrees from Cornell, San Francisco State and Miami.
The Fawleys met while Karen was completing her Ph.D. at North Dakota State and have been married 17 years.
Karen Fawley always wanted to be a scientist who concentrated on research, but at UAM, where research often takes a back seat to classroom teaching, Fawley has discovered both the challenges and rewards of reaching students and influencing lives.
“UAM is a teaching institution,” says Fawley. “I always wanted to be a scientist, but with that came teaching and I also wanted that hands-on experience with students. A lot of them are the first in their families to attend college and they really don’t know what they want to do. It’s very rewarding to watch these students grow and learn, to realize their potential. When you can reach a student who is struggling, when the light bulb goes on, it makes you feel great.”
Fawley spends her summers conducting research. She is currently involved on a project for the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission to identify species of algae in the Ouachita Mountains.
As for joining her science and math colleagues, Drs. John Hunt and Jeff Taylor, as winners of the Hornaday Award, Fawley says she was honored to be nominated and surprised to win. “There are so many faculty on campus doing great work.”
The Hornaday Award was created in 2010 by a donation from UAM graduates Dan and Charlotte Hornaday to honor outstanding faculty.