Written by Stacy Roibal // Graphic by Cooper Turman
Every spring, professors from various departments receive the Achievement in Teaching award. In 2022 the recipients were Dr. Lance Hawley (Bible), Dr. Debby Nutt (nursing), Dr. Josh Brown (pharmaceutical sciences), Dr. Michael Claxton (English), Dottie Fry (theatre), Emmie Mercer (business administration), Dr. Susan Grogan (education), Dr. Keith Schramm (chemistry and biochemistry) and Richard Wells (engineering and physics).
In honor of teacher appreciation week, which was celebrated at Harding Jan. 23-27, Mercer and Grogan were asked a series of questions about their experiences as teachers.
Why are you a teacher?
Mercer: Teaching is such a rewarding experience. I teach because I love getting to know the students while also getting to teach them about a subject field that I am passionate about.
Grogan: It is both a creative and scholarly work that challenges me and gives me satisfaction when I see understanding and learning in my students.
What is your favorite thing about your subject field?
Mercer: I try to incorporate hands-on and practical applications that students can take into their internships and jobs. I love how the field of information systems is constantly changing, and new technologies are always introduced. I love staying on top of and learning new software and passing that knowledge on to my students to help them stand out in their careers. I enjoy working with data, specifically, taking raw data that has no meaning and turning it into insights through statistical analysis and visualizations.
Grogan: I think it is reading books for children and adolescents and sharing them with my students. It is also encouraging students with their strengths who struggle with dyslexia.
What has been one of the most rewarding moments for you as a teacher?
Mercer: There are almost too many to count. I would say it was so rewarding when I finally moved into full-time faculty status after teaching so many years as an adjunct. I also have many project-based classes, and I love to see students take on some fairly challenging projects. It’s so rewarding to see these students troubleshoot their way through the tough errors and show passion in their work. It’s so rewarding to me as a teacher when I see students proud of themselves for succeeding, and it doesn’t matter if it’s just a small error in their code that they find and correct or a more complicated coding project. When they’re happy in their successes, and I see the passion in their work, I am greatly rewarded.
Grogan: It is always seeing the light bulb come on when someone “gets it.” It is also hearing from graduate students teaching in the field and telling me they remember what they learned from me and how it has helped them.
Who was your favorite teacher, and what did they teach you?
Mercer: Mrs. Blaney was my favorite teacher. She taught me middle school English and took a special interest in me. She would seek me out and ask questions about my day, and I could tell she genuinely cared. I learned so much in her classes, and she was so encouraging. She expected a lot from her students, but if you applied yourself, you’d learn a tremendous amount. It seemed that nearly every assignment had helpful applications in the real-world. I’ve tried to bring this same philosophy into my teaching. I recall that Mrs. Blaney required us to write a “book” in her class, and I still have it to this day. Her handwritten notes called my book a “nice masterpiece,” and she mentioned that it had “few mistakes.” It also had a note stating, “Never throw this away!” However, “throw” was misspelled as “through.” It was the first time I recognized that even teachers make mistakes. This reminds me to give my students grace, and even myself, at times, when I make mistakes.
Grogan: It has to be my 10th grade world history teacher (a coach) who taught us about the Holocaust and opened my eyes to the incredible cruelty in the world. He was a man I respected. He showed documentary films on the reel-to-reel projector of the atrocities and forever changed my innocent heart. He was kind and yet firm, and we loved him.
What do you hope students will get out of your class (aside from the subject matter)?
Mercer: I want my students to leave my class with confidence. So many students come into my freshman and sophomore level courses with little computing or coding experience. I want every student to leave confident in the skills that they learned in my courses and ready to take on any challenges they face in the upper level courses.
Grogan: I hope they will never forget how I cared for them, prayed for them, sent them individual encouragement in cards, emails and personal responses on Canvas and had them in my home.
Do you have any memorable moments with your students that still resonate with you?
Mercer: My favorite moments are when students pop into my office for advice or to share a life-changing event such as an engagement or job offer. I absolutely love it when graduates return to my classroom to present to my classes. Students really appreciate hearing how these alumni are using the skills that they learned in the IS department in their jobs today. Seeing the students transformed into confident business professionals is very rewarding.
Grogan: I remember a second grade boy who struggled to read having an ‘aha’ moment beside me. He read sentences in a pocket chart, quietly whispered, “I read that” and then yelled it to the group. I still remember his excitement.
Do you have any message you would like to leave for your students, past present or future?
Mercer: Never stop learning. Always work to improve your spiritual, personal and professional lives. But, don’t be too hard on yourself. Your career is important, but nothing’s more important than your relationship with God, your family and your friends.
Grogan: No matter what your environment tells you or the world news, stand on the firm ground of the word of God. He is the truth when the truth seems hard to find. He is constant and faithful when you are not. Always be grateful.
What other passions do you have outside of your career? If you weren’t a teacher, what would you want to be?
Mercer: I enjoy playing board games with family, reading, cooking/baking, sports and gardening. I always wanted to own a flower farm or be a florist since flowers bring me such joy. I also would enjoy being an editor, because I always seem to find at least one mistake in every book I read. It’s now become a challenge of mine to find a mistake in every book I read, so it’d be nice to be paid for finding such mistakes.
Grogan: I would be a world traveler or an artist. I hope to draw and paint more in my retirement. It isn’t easy to carve out time for that these days.