Colorado State University Honors 2009 Best Teachers

Colorado State University will announce the 2009 Best Teacher Award recipients during a reception at 6:30 p.m. Friday, April 3, in the Lory Student Center North Ballroom.

The CSU Alumni Association and Student Alumni Connection recognize outstanding CSU educators each year with the Best Teacher Awards.

"The Best Teacher Awards program provides a unique opportunity for students to express their appreciation for those who have positively impacted their academic and personal lives," said Rebecca Lang, former president of the CSU Student Alumni Connection.

Six teachers are being honored this year including Brian Butki, Chung-Fu Chang, Tracy Richards, Michael Eckhoff, Alan Von Herrmann and Toni Schindler Zimmerman.

Brian Butki, assistant professor in the Department of Health and Exercise Science in the College of Applied Human Sciences, is the director of the Youth Sport Camps and the CSU Activity Program.  

Butki’s experience in emotional and physical health promotion includes work with recreational therapy, children’s wellness programs and family and community based interventions. His research interests include exercise and mental health, "substitute addictions," obesity prevention in children, and adolescents and exercise motivation.  

"Dr. Butki demonstrates excellence in teaching by making students want to know the subject," said Robert Ungerer, a CSU student. "He doesn’t lecture, he engages. He is the 65 inch plasma TV of teachers. He’s entertaining, fun to watch, and it feels like you are right there with him."

Chung-Fu Chang is an associate professor of Dance in the College of Liberal Arts and director of the CSU Tour Dance Company. He teaches all levels of modern and choreography and acts as an adviser for senior production. Chang received an Outstanding Faculty Award from CSU Mortar Board in April 2008.

Born in Taiwan, Chang danced professionally with the internationally renowned Cloud Gate Dance Theatre and Kaohsiung Contemporary Dance Company. In the U.S., he has been a guest artist in many companies and has been featured in an array of contemporary choreographers’ work.   

"I truly believe that Chung-Fu has made me the performer I am today," said Grady Soapes, a student of Chang. "He comes in later in the evening when all the students are rehearsing and spends time with their performance techniques and is always there to offer his advice."

Tracy Richards, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Natural Sciences, has been teaching undergraduate and graduate courses since 2003. She also works as a triage psychologist at the University Counseling Center.

As part of her doctoral training, Richards completed a one-year internship at Denver Health Medical Center where she was trained in child, adolescent and adult substance abuse and psychiatric emergency room rotations. Her clinical work has included work in a multidisciplinary team, collaborating with psychologists, social workers, nurses and physicians.  

"I find her dedication to the university invaluable as she is one of the most approachable and accessible professors I have ever had," said Aden Simonelli, one of Richard’s students. "Her commitment to giving her students a solid foundation to stand on in basic counseling skills and within college in general is apparent through her dedication to teaching as well as her levels of availability."

Michael Eckhoff, who enrolled at CSU in 2003, is a doctoral candidate and a research scientist in the Department of Forest, Rangeland and Watershed Stewardship in the Warner College of Natural Resources. His research focuses on the history and contemporary policies surrounding biomass utilization, with an emphasis on forest-based resources.  

Eckhoff received an associate’s degree in environmental health from Durham Technical Community College, a bachelor’s degree in political science from North Carolina State University and a master’s degree in political science from CSU.

"Mike Eckoff is more than a teacher of natural resources," said Alysse Brice, CSU student. "He teaches about life and its limitations, but more importantly, he emphasizes life’s possibilities. He transforms every lecture into a whirlwind of learning, interaction, enlightenment and humor. He is the epitome of excellence when it comes to teaching."

Alan Von Herrmann is a doctoral candidate in mathematics and is expected to graduate in summer 2009. He has been teaching at CSU since August 2004.  He has advised and mentored numerous students considering a major in mathematics.

Von Herrmann’s current research involves analyzing the inverse conductivity problem. An important application of the inverse problem is the medical imaging technique known as electrical impedance tomography.

Von Herrmann received his master’s in mathematics from the University of Arizona. He studied mathematics, physics and electrical engineering as an undergraduate. He won the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant for 2006-2007 in the Department of Mathematics.

"Alan Von Herrmann has demonstrated excellent commitment to CSU and especially its students," said Michael Mikucki, a student of Von Herrmann. "Alan is first and foremost a great teacher.  While some professors excel at research and teach on the side, and others excel at teaching and research on the side, Alan excels at both. As a student I know he is committed to help me succeed. He is wonderfully committed to our education."  

Toni Schindler Zimmerman, professor of Human Development and Family Studies in the College of Applied Human Sciences, focuses her research in primarily three areas: work and family balance, diversity training with youth, and analysis of relationship advice in the popular media. She has served as the director of the Marriage and Family Therapy graduate program since 1991.

Zimmerman has been recognized for her enthusiasm and rigor in her teaching especially with respect to diversity training. She recently was on the faculty of the University of Virginia Semester at Sea study aboard program where she taught courses on family, sexuality and gender as they relate to countries such as South Africa, India, China, Vietnam, Japan, Brazil, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Mauritius.

"Toni has an energy and love for life and people that immediately captivates you, making you want to learn everything you can from this amazing woman," said Hannah Vaughan, a student of Zimmerman. "She brings this energy and love with her into the classroom when she teaches, into the therapy room when she supervises and into your everyday encounters with her."

CSU teachers are nominated by students and alumni and the finalists are then selected by a committee comprised of members of the Alumni Association Board of Directors and Student Alumni Connection Leadership Council.