Four from St. Cloud State honored as Educator of the Year, Outstanding Educator, Outstanding Service Faculty
Two St. Cloud State University professors were honored with Awards for Excellence by the Board of Trustees of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities April 20.
These awards are conferred annually to college and university teaching faculty and university administrative service faculty to acknowledge and provide systemwide recognition for consistently superior professional achievement and to encourage the ongoing pursuit of excellence.
“The Awards for Excellence are Minnesota State’s highest honors,” said Jay Cowles, chair of the Board of Trustees. “Recipients have distinguished themselves through their commitment, their efforts, and their contributions that will surely pay-off in the lives of their students for generations to come. They continue to raise the bar in cultivating a culture of excellence and inspiring the best at Minnesota State.
Educator of the Year
Dr. Mike Dando and Dr. Melissa Hanzsek-Brill earned Educator of the Year honors. These awards are bestowed upon faculty to acknowledge and reward exceptional professional accomplishment and to encourage ongoing excellence in teaching. The Award proclaims, on behalf of the entire Minnesota State system, the board of Trustees’ pride in the dedication and accomplishment of its faculty who provide instruction that prepares Minnesota State college and university students for their professional, scholarly and civic lives.
Dr. Mike Dando
Dando is an assistant professor of English, and the director of the Communication Arts and Literature program at St. Cloud State. He teaches a hip hop studies course as a part of the Honors Program. Dando is also the producer behind the Social Justice Mixtapes, a multimedia series of original, student written, created, produced, and performed hip hop art works focusing on social activism and democratic engagement. He has worked with hip hop artists, activists, and educators across the country to combine social justice education and hip hop culture. He has presented to national and international audiences (including SXSW, NCTE, and AERA) about critical literacy development and hip hop culture throughout the elements and across the content areas.
“Dr. Dando’s teaching, service, and research center around community-oriented, student-driven opportunities for democratic engagement, critical thinking, and authentic self-expression across a variety of mediums and methods,” said Robbyn Wacker, president of St. Cloud State University. “He seeks critical, meaningful ways to connect diverse, real-world experiences, communities, and backgrounds into his teaching.”
Dando’s research and writing explore ways teachers and schools collaborate with communities to build collective, civically engaged, democratic opportunities and systems for social justice education. Specifically, his research examines ways youth employ various popular cultural forms, including hip-hop and comics to create social, cultural, and political identities that generate educational opportunities for sustained, critical, democratic engagement for social justice.
His recent publications include “Re-Mixing Making: examining the Intersections of Hip Hop Culture, Maker Spaces, and Social Justice Education” in The International Journal of Critical Media Literacy, and in Pop Culture and Curriculum, Assemble! from Dio Press.
Dr. Melissa Hanzsek-Brill
Hanzsek-Brill is a professor of Mathematics and Mathematics Education, coordinator of STEM Education, and co-chair of Teacher Development with a demonstrated history of working in both the higher education and K-12.
She is the principle investigator of a $1.2 million National Science Foundation-Noyce project to increase the number of STEM teachers in high needs urban schools and co-principle investigator of a $5 million National Science Foundation-SSTEM ACCESS STEM project, leading the research team and the tutoring/learning assistant intervention.
Hanzsek-Brill is co-founder of Women Engaged in STEM at St. Cloud State University and a co-chair of Tech Savvy with the Minnesota State AAUW president. She developed PAKCAT (Parents and Kids Counting A Lot Together) program in St. Cloud Area Schools in partnership with LEAF to provide take home mathematics activity bags for multi-generational interaction and learning focused on quantitative literacy.
“I am driven by the understanding that learning happens everywhere, and I strive to extend my education connections beyond the university classroom and out into the community to address the entire learning life-cycle,” Hanszek-Brill said.
Other community projects have included teaching summer school in partnership with the Multilingual Learners program in St. Cloud, offering professional development in mathematics to teachers in grades PreK-8, developing and teaching mathematics programs for local industry, and leading professional development for Minnesota State faculty focused on active learning, Learning Assistants, and inclusive instruction.
“Dr. Hanzsek-Brill has led an exemplary career as a teacher, scholar, and an engaged community steward in Minnesota for over 25 years,” said Robbyn Wacker, president of St. Cloud State University. “She is a faculty member that exceeds all boundaries to reach her students with her exceptional skills, experience, and radiant passion for their learning. She is a north star shining brightly from St. Cloud, Minnesota.”
Dr. Alex Layne
Dr. Alex Layne is an associate professor in the Game Design and Technical Communications programs at Metropolitan State University. She is also an adjunct faculty member at St. Cloud State teaching Document Design. She is a graduate of St. Cloud State with a BA in Literature in 2006 and an MA in English in 2009.
She is also co-director of the Metropolitan State Center for Game Design and New Media Studies. She advises the Video game Student Group and the TC3 Student Group at Metropolitan State, where she also hosts the Student Research Conference and the TCID Writing Group.
“Dr. Layne advocates and acts to make sure the students at Metro State have the opportunity to engage in high-impact educational practices that are not always readily accessible to adult and marginalized students,” said Ginny Arthur, president of Metropolitan State University. “She models innovation by letting students take the leadership and responsibility for their learning through the use of learning proposals.”
Outstanding Educator – Dr. Abdullah Abu Hussein
In addition to the Teacher of the Year awards, the Board of Trustees also recognized several educators from throughout the system as Outstanding Educators.
Dr. Abudullah Abu Hussein, Information Systems assistant professor earned Outstanding Educator honors and was recognized by the Board of Trustees.
Abu Hussein uses creativity and a passion for mentoring and advising students, he carefully crafts his labs and assignments and taps a wide spectrum of teaching tools and techniques to accelerate student learning.
Abu Hussein’s research interest includes cloud computing, cloud security, security economics, Internet-of-things (IoT), software engineering, social engineering, security and privacy, and security metrics.
Abu Hussein has been teaching courses on security, software engineering, and cloud computing as a lecturer at various educational institutions. He has a number of refereed publications in related venues, presented papers at various conferences and served as a reviewer in some journals, including IEEE Transaction on Cloud Computing.
Outstanding Service Faculty – Kathryn Young
The Board of Trustees also recognized the contributions of service faculty with the Service Faculty of the Year award and Outstanding Service Faculty recognition. These honors recognize the individual professional accomplishments of service faculty in the role they fulfill in advising and counseling students, recruitment, retention, residential life programming and other areas of university service.
Office of Clinical Experiences Director Kathryn Young earned Outstanding Service Faculty honors and was recognized by the Board of Trustees for her support of the development of prospective teachers through her collaborations with faculty, staff and school districts.
Young has exemplified a student-centered work ethic throughout her work with teacher candidates, accreditation boards, committees and centers and in promoting diversity equity and inclusion at K-12 schools in Minnesota. She has transformed the Office of Clinical Experiences into a place where students, faculty and staff feel welcomed, accepted and valued.
“Children learn best when they can see themselves in their teachers and that those teachers are well prepared,” Young said. “I am grateful for leadership roles I play in several DEI initiatives for under- represented K-16 students in our region of Minnesota.”
Young has developed strong and supportive relationships with the teachers and administrators, with 115 partnership agreements with the P-12 districts, where the teacher candidates are placed for clinical experiences, and without her commitment to their success, these opportunities for their development would be delayed or even ineffective or futile. She works closely with teacher educators from across all preparation programs on campus, the clinical experience directors at other institutions, institutional administration, P-12 partners, state leaders and oversight groups.