LEMONT FURNACE, Pa. — The Penn State Alumni Association has selected Gib Prettyman, an associate professor of English at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus, to receive an Alumni/Student Award for Excellence in Teaching. In conjunction with this award, he will serve as a Penn State Teaching Fellow for 2017.
Prettyman, one of just three honorees University-wide for 2017, joins 57 others since the award was established in 1986 to recognize distinguished teaching and provide encouragement and incentive for excellence in education. As Teaching Fellows, recipients are expected to share their talents and expertise with others throughout the University system in the year following the award’s presentation.
In addition to plaques for himself and the Fayette campus English department to commemorate this honor, Prettyman will receive a $3,000 cash award and will also administer a $9,000 grant for his department to improve teaching and learning over a three-year period. He has not yet finalized plans for how he will spend this grant, but anticipates it will provide “an opportunity to think about teaching on a slightly larger scale.”
A Uniontown resident, Prettyman was recognized on two previous occasions for his skills as an instructor, having received the 2012 Teaching Excellence Award from Penn State Fayette and another for his style of instruction while in graduate school at the University of Maryland.
Although he is an award-winning professor, Prettyman didn’t actually choose teaching as a career. “I just followed my intellectual interests and passions and hoped for the best. When I had an opportunity to teach in grad school, I enjoyed it. I always felt like I could do it — or wanted to try, at least. Full-time university teaching positions in English were hard to come by, but I was fortunate to land a one-year instructorship position at Mesa State College (now Colorado Mesa University),” he said.
Prettyman’s teaching style began to be formed when he himself was a student, and he generally tries to be flexible, remain open, and use trial and error. He explained: “Most people learn in a deeper way when they try to use knowledge, rather than just listening or reading about a topic, so I try to find ways for students to practice applying their knowledge. In that regard, I’m more like a coach helping a player to improve her skills than an expert who tells students what they should know. Learning new things is hard, and I try to keep that in mind.”
Well aware of the stiff competition for teaching awards throughout all of Penn State, Prettyman admits to surprise at receiving the Alumni/Student Award for Excellence in Teaching. “I never really expected to be selected,” he said. “But it’s very gratifying to be recognized and encouraged in this way.”