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Accinno Award Recipient is Teaching Students to Ask Their Own Questions

Dr. Susan F. Skawinski views her students as “co-conspirators” in learning and fosters a risk-taking classroom where there is no such thing as a dumb question.

The Providence College associate professor of education’s teaching philosophy promotes a process of mutual growth, respect, and understanding between instructor and student.

“I expect my students to cross the threshold of our classroom with open minds that allow me to present new ways of thinking and challenging established ideas,” said Skawinski. “In turn, I must venture to explore fresh ways of presenting content and crafting assignments, even as I recognize not all may be successful."

In part for her engaging teaching style, Skawinski was chosen as the recipient of the 2012-2013 Joseph R. Accinno Faculty Teaching Award — PC’s highest teaching honor.

The announcement was made during the Spring Faculty and Staff Meeting by Dr. Nuria Alonso García, associate professor of Spanish, chairperson of the Department of Foreign Language Studies, and the 2009-2010 Accinno Award recipient.

The Center for Teaching Excellence and the Teaching Award Selection Committee bestow the prize annually to a tenured faculty member who best exhibits excellence in teaching, passion and enthusiasm for learning, and concern for students’ academic and personal growth.

Students, faculty, staff, and alumni may nominate professors for the honor. 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 mid-semester assessment to collect student feedback while the faculty member is not present.

Established in 2002, the Accinno Faculty Teaching Award is named in honor of the deceased brother of the late John J. Accinno, C.P.A. ’46 & ’93Hon., a College trustee and benefactor.

Skawinski is the 11th recipient of the award, which will be presented at Academic Convocation in September. She will receive a cash stipend and have her name inscribed on a plaque in Phillips Memorial Library.

One nominator stated that Skawinski “is not a professor simply here to teach information and move on. Rather, she works tirelessly to ensure that students are learning and growing both academically and as people.”

Going beyond the classroom

Skawinski, who started at PC in 1995, earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Bridgewater State in Massachusetts. She received a master’s degree in literacy education from the University of Rhode Island and a doctorate in developmental studies in reading and language from Boston University.

She teaches undergraduate courses in literacy education and assessment, as well as courses in literacy and research in the Graduate Literacy Program. She has made a number of presentations at national conferences in areas related to literacy development, literacy education, and teacher education.

Outside of the College, she is involved with three research projects related to literacy development.

She is collecting data in several middle schools in Rhode Island to assess the impact of text structure and complexity on the understanding of content-related text. 

Along with Dr. Zach Rossetti from Boston University, Skawinski is exploring the influence of field experiences on pre-service teachers’ knowledge and perceptions about diversity. 

Finally, Skawinski is working with two PC colleagues — Dr. Laura Boynton-Hauerwas, associate professor of education, and Dr. Lynne B. Ryan, professor of education — to examine how field experiences completed in schools abroad influence pre-service teachers’ growth. 

Skawinski is grateful to receive the Accinno Award and thanked her students and her colleagues in the Department of Elementary/Special Education and the School of Professional Studies for helping to advance the power of collaborative learning.

“I believe this award acknowledges the passion for teaching I see each semester in my students, who continually inspire me to be both a better learner and a better teacher,” said Skawinski.

— John Larson

Past recipients of the Accinno Award are:

2011-2012: Chard deNiord, English

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

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