Lincoln (Neb.) - March 3, 1999 - In an introductory chemistry class of 200 students, one might expect some glazed over eyes and few yawns. But not in Paul Kelter's class at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His enthusiasm for chemistry is contagious, and his teaching methods are innovative.
To demonstrate chemical concepts, students may use liquid nitrogen to cook up a vat of ice cream or watch Kelter make "elephant toothpaste," a chemical reaction that produces mounds of bubbles. In smaller, more advanced classes, Kelter leads students through challenging material in a way that leaves them wanting more. When Kelter is around, chemistry is no sleeper.
Kelter is an associate professor of chemistry and the winner of a 1999 Outstanding Teaching and Instructional Creativity Award. The award recognizes excellent teaching and is given annually to faculty selected from the University of Nebraska's four-campus system.
Kelter's creative teaching style makes science fun and relevant by showing how chemistry enters into everyday events and social decisions. Kelter never tires of sharing ideas with a new group of students every semester.
"This stuff is fun. And I think teachers should present this stuff in an interesting way and show the passion they have for ideas," Kelter said.
Kelter said a teacher is successful if students know the material well by the end of the class and if the class has a high retention rate. If students know the material but half the class dropped out, a teacher has failed. The third measure of success relates to how students feel about the course.
"Do kids want to know more once they leave your course or is your course like intellectual castor oil and all they want to do is run away?" Kelter asked.
Another important quality of good teaching for Kelter is the ability to make students comfortable in class so they can fully participate. From a large introductory course to a small class of honors students, Kelter creates an atmosphere that encourages learning. He tries to get to know his students, encourages questions and interaction, and keeps his office door open. At a large university, Kelter said it's important for students to have a one-on-one relationship with faculty.
"It's important to have someone, somewhere that you go to for help," Kelter said. "That's also the role of a faculty member - to advise and to support, to help students have as positive an experience as they can in this place."
Kelter is active in the publishing world. He has cowritten a number of books, lab guides and other materials, including a textbook for non-chemistry majors that asks the question, "Why do fools fall in love?" (Chemistry, of course.) He created a World Wide Web-based college prep chemistry course for students who don't have access to a conventional high school course, and he's involved in national programs to enhance science education.
Kelter, who earned his bachelor's degree at City College of
New York (1976) and his doctorate at NU (1980), joined the
Nebraska faculty in 1993.
For questions regarding these releases, contact:
(402) 472-8514, Fax: (402) 472-7825