At the start of each semester, music and gender studies professor John Spilker invites his students to review and sign a contract titled, “Ground Rules for Class Discussion.”
In signing the contract, students agree to be open-minded during class discussions, learn to recognize and evaluate their own set opinions and then set them aside to promote open, academic dialogue.
Spilker’s ability to empower students, develop their leadership skills, and keep a safe, open environment for discussion are just a few reasons he was named the 2017 Margaret J. Prouty Teaching Award winner. The annual award recognizes and rewards faculty for the pursuit of excellence in teaching and honors a professor who has made a distinct difference in the lives of students. Students, faculty and staff are invited to submit nominations.
“Dr. Spilker is always challenging his students to reach outside of their comfort zones to explore and learn from other disciplines,” student Cassidy Besse said in nominating Spilker.
Spilker has taught at Nebraska Wesleyan University since 2011. Over the past six years, he has revised music course offerings to integrate discipline-specific content and learning objectives with the university’s new general education curriculum, the Archway Curriculum; has been elected to leadership positions in national organizations including chair of the Pedagogy Study Group for the American Musicological Society; and has been selected to give scholarship presentations on writing, diversity, well being, and assessment of student learning — scholarship that has been selected by national organizations including the Association of American Colleges and Universities, Higher Learning Commission, and the Society for American Music. The United Methodist Church Division of Higher Education recognized him as the university's "Exemplary Teacher" for 2014-2015.
Through support of the Student Faculty Collaborative Research Grant, Spilker has twice been selected to collaborate with students on extensive projects including research in New York City to study music and drag culture and to Washington D.C. to study the cultures of Peru at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.
In nominating Spilker for the Prouty Award, students shared countless examples of his devotion to their success.
“He has made such a strong impact on our department, our campus, and most importantly, our students in ways that will affect us all for the rest of our lives,” said student Joel Brown.
Spilker’s impact on NWU can be found beyond academics. His work with New Student Orientation helped new students acclimate to campus and helped student leaders further develop their skills.
“He has the special ability to relate to all types of people, and equally care for and respect them,” said student John Estudillo, a former New Student Orientation leader. “And even though I’ve never had him in the classroom, he still takes time out of his busy schedule to check in on my personal development.”
Other’s nominated for this year’s Prouty Award include:
- Tim Anderson, professor of education
- Lisa Borchardt, professor of social work
- Molly Fitzke, assistant professor of nursing
Previous winners include:
- Tamra Llewellyn, health and human performance, 2015-2016
- Angela McKinney, biology, 2014-2015
- David Gracie, art, 2013-2014
- Garry Duncan, biology, 2012-2013
- Patty Hawk, communication studies, 2011-2012