ST. CLOUD -- Two professors at St. Cloud State University have received a statewide excellence award.

The Board of Trustees for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities awarded Dr. Melissa Hanzsek-Brill and Dr. Michael Dando the Educator of the Year award.

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A news release from Minnesota State says the Educator of the Year rewards exceptional professional accomplishment and excellence in teaching.

Dr. Hanzsek-Brill is a professor of Math and Math Education at SCSU. Math is a struggle for many students, and she has found herself on the front lines of that challenge.

When somebody says, I can't handle this, or I feel like I can't learn this, I always end their sentence with the word yet. What I want them to do in the end is learn how to learn. Because once you know how to learn the content, the math doesn't matter. The reading doesn't matter. Science doesn't matter if you know how to learn. So that's really where I start, figuring out what skills you need to learn this particular content.

Outside of the classroom, Dr. Hanzsek-Brill works with a youth math program in area schools to lessen the fear of math when students are young.

So for example, right we have libraries filled with books, and we hear it all the time as parents - read to your child once a day. But nobody talks about, oh, count with your child once a day, or look for shapes once a day. The kids in the District 742 preschools check out like a library book each week, and they take them home. And it's people and kids counting a lot together. I think as we make this shift with mathematics, the more access people have to see mathematics it’ll become less scary and less hard.

Dr. Michael Dando is an assistant professor of English at SCSU. He was singled out for his work in student-driven opportunities for democratic engagement.

Dr. Dando says engagement in the era of social media is all about critical thinking.

I'm a student of history. There’s always been trying times, so this in some ways isn't anything new. That's one of the things I talk about; democratic engagement goes beyond simply voting. It goes into being a critical media consumer. Being able to evaluate for yourself, think for yourself, and be able to make a good argument for yourself. I'm in the English department. So be able to back up your argument with verifiable and trustworthy facts.

Dr. Dando was surprised he received the Educator of the Year Award.

It's lovely, and wonderful and amazing, to be recognized for the work that I’m engaged in. I was very, very flattered and honored.

Also receiving the Educator of the Year award – Lisa Bergin (Minneapolis College), Alex Layne (Metro State University), Lindsy Mason O’Brien (Lake Superior College), Katie Nelson (Inver Hills Community College), and Kleber Ortiz (Minneapolis College).


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