HANOVER — Dartmouth College Associate Professor of Engineering Vicki May was named the 2013 New Hampshire Teacher of the Year by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching at an award ceremony in Washington, D.C., last week.
“There’s a consensus among students that Professor May is amazing. She’s one of the best. It’s obvious to anyone that has been in any of her classes,” Dartmouth College senior Anne Ressler said.
“We’re just pleased she’s getting the recognition.”
May was not only singled out for her hands-on approach to learning, but also for her efforts to encourage students K through 12th grade to engage with math and science learning though several outreach programs in the Upper Valley community.
There are real world applications for math and science that can be fun and engaging for students, May said Friday.
The world needs more engineers, May said, but more specifically more creative thinkers to solve problems from environmental issues to poverty, she said.
“We need to do science and math at the lower levels so they want to be engineers when they grow up,” she said.
“We need creative problem solvers and designers.”
Whether she is working with students in Haiti to create affordable housing in a hurricane and earthquake prone part of the world, or building a playground locally, May likes to give her students room to innovate, she said.Ressler, an engineering major, worked under May at an engineering summer camp for high school students in which the students tackled projects from building electric guitars to designing skateboards.
“To her credit, she really believes in hands-on learning and that the practical experience will help you learn better,” Ressler said.
Ressler also worked with other students in one of May’s classes to build a playground at Upper Valley Haven, a homeless shelter in White River Junction, Vt.
May has a way of trusting her students to tackle a project, “trusting their abilities,” Ressler said. And at the same time stepping in when her expertise is needed.
“Throughout that process, professor May was just a wonderful mentor to us. She knew the balance between trusting her students, but also arming them with the knowledge they needed,” she said.
During a recent class assignment to create affordable housing solutions, May said her students came up with great ideas from bamboo roofs to compressed earth logs.
“I like to give them as much freedom as possible without getting overly frustrated,” she said, and it very often pays off. “I’m constantly surprised. They come up with great things. I’ve just got to stay out of their way.”
May earned a B.S. in civil engineering from the University of Minnesota in 1991, a M.S., in civil/structural engineering from Stanford University in 1992 and a Ph.D. in civil/structural engineering from Stanford University in 1996.