English Professor Receives Teaching Award
Providence, R.I. — Essayist and poet Chard deNiord, an associate professor of English, is the 10th recipient of the 2011-12 Joseph R. Accinno Faculty Teaching Award, Providence College’s highest teaching honor.
The announcement was made at the Spring Faculty and Staff Meeting.
The Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) and the Teaching Award Selection Committee award the prize annually to a tenured faculty member who demonstrates excellence in teaching, passion and enthusiasm for learning, and concern for students’ academic and personal growth.
It is named in honor of the deceased brother of the late John J. Accinno, C.P.A. ’46 & ’93Hon., a former College trustee and benefactor, who died in January.
deNiord said he felt strange to be chosen for the award, which will be presented at Academic Convocation in September.
“I feel I’m part of an excellent whole at Providence College, a community of excellent teachers and superb students, where the pedagogical standards are high indeed,” he said. “I don’t feel I could have won this award without both the challenge and support this educational community has provided me over the past fourteen years.”
deNiord, who started at PC in 1998, earned a master of divinity degree from Yale Divinity School and a master of fine arts degree in poetry from the renowned Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa.
He was the co-founder of the New England College MFA Program in Poetry and worked with his colleagues in the Department of English to establish a creative writing major at PC in 2009.
“It was just an idea whose time had come here,” he said. “We needed to embrace it. Many English majors, including incoming students, were asking for it.”
deNiord said he derives a lot of his energy for teaching and writing from teaching itself.
“There’s a kind of electricity, a charge that occurs in the classroom,” he said. “When I see students writing strong poems, or strong lines even, it’s just my nature — I myself get very excited and inspired by what they do.”
The professor added that affirming students’ work can have a contagious effect on the whole class, and he strives to create a safe place where they can share stories about very private thoughts or feelings.
“If a teacher reads a work carefully and hears original language and voice, or sees something that’s remarkable in any way in their work, it’s essential for the student then to hear that from the teacher,” deNiord said.
It’s a characteristic appreciated by students in his creative writing and literature courses. deNiord “is not a critical scholar who tells you what you should get out of a poetic passage or how you should write a poem within strict guidelines,” wrote a student who nominated him for the Accinno Award.
“Rather, he encourages individual expression, be it in analysis or composition of poetry, and his free spirit and open mind enable even the most timid writers to find something within themselves to convey in writing in a meaningful way.”
Students, faculty, staff, and alumni may nominate professors for this honor, said Dr. Laurie L. Grupp, associate professor of education and director of the CTE. Nominated faculty write dossiers for consideration, and the selection committee chooses three finalists. Committee members then review additional materials, observe the faculty members while they teach, and conduct a midsemester assessment to collect student feedback while the faculty member is not present.
Recipients receive a cash stipend and have their name inscribed on a plaque in the Phillips Memorial Library. deNiord will speak at the Academic Awards Ceremony during Commencement Weekend in May.
deNiord will be on sabbatical for the next school year while he works on another book of poetry. He has written four, including his most recent collection, The Double Truth (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011).
He also will conduct research for another volume of interviews and essays on prominent senior American poets. deNiord recently completed the first, titled Sad Friends, Drowned Lovers, Stapled Songs, Conversations and Reflections on 20th Century American Poetry (Marick Press, 2011), with the help of a Committee on Aid to Faculty Research grant from Providence College.
The poets deNiord interviewed, who included Robert Bly, Lucille Clifton, Donald Hall, Ruth Stone, Galway Kinnell, and Maxine Kumin, offered their perspective on their careers.
“The world in which they established their careers was Internet free,” deNiord said. “People bought and read their books rather than looked them up online. There was a much smaller but more intense audience for fewer poets.
Poets and readers of poetry are still adjusting to this modern phase of experiencing literature on a screen, he said.
“It’s a sea change that’s comparable in many ways to the repercussions of the printing press,” he said. “I was curious about what these senior poets had to say not only about their own careers, but what they also thought about the current big tent of American poetry.”
Past recipients of the Accinno Award are:
2010-2011: Dr. Mark S. Hyde, Political Science
2009-2010: Dr. Nuria Alonso García, Foreign Language Studies
2008-2009: Dr. Charles R. Toth, Biology
2007-2008: Dr. Robert B. Hackey, Health Policy and Management
2006-2007: Dr. Margaret M. Manchester, History
2005-2006: Dr. Marian Mattison, Social Work
2004-2005: Dr. Vance G. Morgan, Philosophy
2003-2004: Dr. Stephen J. Lynch, English
2002-2003: Dr. Joseph P. Cammarano, Political Science
— Liz F. Kay