Her students say she makes history come alive for them. Her colleagues call her the model of an effective and caring teacher.
The accolades are many for West Virginia University Associate Professor of History Elizabeth Fones-Wolf, one of only 46 teachers nationwide chosen as”Professor of the Year”by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).
As West Virginias top prof, Dr. Fones-Wolf tries to make history”accessible”for all of her students �€whether she is teaching a U.S. history class of 200 freshmen or a small, graduate level course of a dozen. She does it by combining innovative teaching styles and personal contact with students.
“I try to help students become interested in the topic and really make it a living thing for them, not something thats in the past,”said Fones-Wolf, who has taught history at WVU since 1990.”We tend to think of history as just being a set of facts. I try to introduce the idea of interpretation. Its a concept that history is a living process, we are constantly reinterpreting it, and that students can interpret history for themselves.”
Fones-Wolf uses many different teaching techniques. Among them: role playing, debates and film. During this past spring semester, Fones-Wolf taught a class she developed called”Hollywood and American History.”The course examined various media interpretations of five major events in U.S. history and encouraged students to think critically about information presented to them through the film industry.
“Elizabeth is not only a tireless worker who is demanding, thorough, fair and caring in her treatment of students, but highly innovative in both classroom assignments and the design of new courses,”says colleague Jack Hammersmith, who also earned CASE Professor of the Year honors in 1992.”She is a successful researcher and writer who serves as a model for graduate students and is never satisfied with simply repeating last years undergraduate syllabus.”
Her love for teaching comes in part from the joy she receives in working with students.
“I want to get to know each of the students,”said Fones-Wolf.”That personal contactpersonal interest is as much a part of teaching as conveying information and helping them think critically. I want students here to succeed.”
Fones-Wolf makes it a point to engage her students, even in large lecture halls, by strolling up and down the aisles, asking questions to individual students along the way. Its her opportunity to share her enthusiasm about history, she said.
“Its like shes talking just to me �€even though the class is very big,”said student Justin Sherr, a WVU freshman from Baltimore, Md.”She makes history easy to understand.”
Fones-Wolf has won numerous teaching awards, including the 2001 WVU Foundation Award for Outstanding Teaching, the 2000 Eberly College of Arts and Sciences Teacher of the Year Award and the 16th annual Cathy Covert Award in Mass Communication History. But she says the U.S. honor for the state of West Virginia is tops.
“Its really a great honor to have my teaching recognized at the national level,”she said.”Im also honored to join the other recipients of this award at WVU . We have a lot of fine teachers here.”
“Im very pleased that Elizabeth has been recognized in this way,”said Eberly College Dean Duane Nellis.”She embodies the outstanding scholarship, teaching and service found among the faculty here at WVU .”
Fones-Wolf obtained her bachelors and masters degrees in history from the University of Maryland before earning her doctorate at the University of Massachusetts in 1990. That same year, she joined the history faculty in WVU s EberlyCollege as a specialist in 20th century U.S. social and economic history.
She is the author of Selling Free Enterprise: The Business Assault on Labor and Liberalism, 1945-1960, the first book in the new History of Communication series published by the University of Illinois Press. She was associate editor of The Samuel Gompers Papers , also published by the University of Illinois Press.
Including Fones-Wolf, WVU has had 13 CASE Teacher of the Year recipients over the past 16 years. Past recipients: Sophia Peterson (1987), Carol Rotter (1988), Judith Stitzel (1989), Robert DiClerico (1990), Pat Rice (1991), Jack Hammersmith (1992), Richard Turton (1993), Gail Galloway Adams (1994), Bernard Allen (WVU-P, 1996), Christine Martin (1998), James Harms (1999), and John”Jack”Renton (2001).