A Wittenberg University professor almost deleted the email that said she’d been named 2014 Ohio Professor of the year, thinking it was just more junk mail.
But Elizabeth George’s students said this week they weren’t surprised the longtime physics professor earned the honor, awarded annually by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.
George has a special ability to take complex topics like quantum mechanics and break them down depending on the learning style of each of student, said Thomas Chuna, a junior physics major at Wittenberg.
“She is very understanding of when I need to work on it on my own and when I need additional information,” Chuna said. “She’s always right on time with each piece of the puzzle.”
Teaching runs in George’s family. Her father was a professor at the University of Columbia, and her mother also encouraged her love of learning early on.
“My father taught math and he seemed to have a lot of fun at that, and my mother was my earliest teacher,” George said. “They both really enjoyed teaching and working with young people.”
George always had an interest in challenging fields. When she first attended college at the University of Arizona, she initially became interested in Russian language and astronomy. But during one of her early astronomy courses, she discovered physics and credited previous teachers with pushing her in that direction.
“I had some really great professors who really brought out the beauty of the subject,” George said.
Now, she tries to do the same for her students. The key, she said, is showing how physics can impact other topics or hobbies that students are already interested in. In a recent example, George said she discussed the Rosetta mission, in which scientists successfully landed a probe on the surface of a comet. The probe initially bounced off the surface of the comet but was eventually able to recover and land.
George explained to students how the probe was supposed to work, and how the probe was able to recover and eventually land.
This is the second consecutive year a Wittenberg Professor received the statewide honor. John Ritter, a geology professor, won the award last year. That’s a reflection of the quality of Wittenberg’s faculty, George said.
“I don’t necessarily feel this is about me,” George said of the award. “I think it’s about the quality of teaching at Wittenberg.”