Dr. Ruth Tanner (UMass Lowell) receives the 2012 Timm Award

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Dr. Ruth Tanner (UMass Lowell) receives the 2012 Timm Award

The New England Association of Chemistry Teachers (NEACT) is pleased to announce that the 2012  John A. Timm Award recipient is  Dr. Ruth Tanner, professor emeritus, University of Massachusetts , Lowell.
 
This Award was established by NEACT in 1971 to commemorate Professor John Arrend Timm of Yale University and Simmons College, a scientist, an educator, textbook author, and, a former President of NEACT.  While professor Timm died in 1969, he was (posthumously) the first recipient of the award in 1972.  It is presented by NEACT to a person who has made outstanding contributions to the education of young people in chemistry.
 
Dr.  Tanner has been very active in the American Chemical Society, having been a member of the board of directors from 1996 to 2009 and chair of “Connections to Chemistry” program, which assists New England high school chemistry teachers to explore and use ACS resources.  This year, she was elected as Chair of the Northeast Section of the American Chemical Society.
 
 Ruth’s colleague and friend, Dr. Edwin Jahngen, Professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry at UMASS Lowell,  shared this:
“Dr. Tanner’s effectiveness and motivation of students is evident in the comments I have heard from Senior Chemistry Majors virtually in every year of my 30 year tenure at the University.  She is tough and demanding, but when four years are drawing to a close to a person (students)  would say that her courses were the best they had and her guidance was the most sound. 
Working with Professor Ruth Tanner for over 30 years I can assure you that she has influenced me and helped me grow in my role as an educator.  She is certainly in the same rare company as those who have received this award in the past. I think she is well deserving of the John A. Timm Award for her lifetime of service to chemistry and education.”
 
In her Timm Award Address to NEACT in August, Dr. Tanner shared what she learned about the life of John Arrend Timm while preparing her lecture.  In doing so she brought an interesting historical perspective to the evolution of chemical education – following Timm’s journey,  comparing her own experiences and wondering how the future of chemical education would evolve. 
“It would be interesting to talk with his students to get a gauge of the other aspect of teaching – the chemistry he had with his students.  My view of education is that it is part sharing our knowledge and chemical expertise with the students, but that it is also sharing our own humanity with them.  The students come to high school and for the next four years we  work with them and help them as they mature through this difficult period in their lives.  The next four years as undergraduates, we work with them in their courses, but we also work with them as they mature into the beginning of their professional careers.  A very important aspect of this is getting to know the students individually and allowing them to become comfortable with us.  Students want to know who we are and what motivates us.  They also want us to know who they are and they want to know if they can trust us with knowing who they are.  In my courses, I like to work with the students individually as much as possible to get to somewhat know them and to know what motives them.  How do we know if they feel they can trust us?  It’s the little things.”
“Let’s look at our current classrooms. Is anyone looking, watching, or listening to us?  In front of them we see laptops, Ipads, Iphones, and other technology toys.  Do we ask them to unplug or do we plug in?  If we plug in, are we, then, in a sense, shut out?  Not yet.  However, the next step is on-line courses.  There is no classroom, but there is technology making education immediately available, cheaper and two dimensional – talking heads, power point slides, internet references and periodic chat rooms for help sessions.. 
The business of education must change and adapt.  Hopefully there’s a middle ground and there should be ways to find it.”
 
Dr. Ruth Tanner is a true example of a thoughtful and passionate educator.  Her insights challenge us to meet the future head-on, so we can influence and help shape it, rather than to just ‘let it happen’.  Thank you, Dr. Tanner for your leadership and support in the important work of chemical education.