Shives & Vawter Named Fall 2016 Excellence in Teaching Award Recipients

Earlier this semester, the Clarkson College Faculty Senate announced Nicole Shives, M.S., B.A., Associate Professor of General Education, and Jill Vawter, M.S.N., R.N., Undergraduate Nursing faculty, as the fall 2016 Excellence in Teaching Award recipients.

This award (also commonly known as the Apple Award) recognizes two faculty each fall and spring semester who exemplify the “Seven Principles of Good Practice” (Chickering & Gamson, 1987), which include:

  • Encourages contact between students and faculty
  • Develops reciprocity and cooperation among students
  • Encourages active learning
  • Gives prompt feedback
  • Emphasizes time on task
  • Communicates high expectations
  • Respects diverse talents and ways of learning

A few of the many laudable comments made in Nicole’s and Jill’s peer- and student-submitted nomination forms include:


  • I really, really appreciate her. She gives or shows you what you need to know. When you are done with her class, you feel as though you have accomplished so much—tough but very, very rewarding.
  • She expects you to better yourself by asking questions and working to understand things that come harder to you.
  • If a student asks her a question, she answers and asks you another question back to further your knowledge on the subject. Ex: ‘Is this the femur?’ She would say, ‘Yes it is. What muscles attach to it? What is its action?'
  • She deserves credit for being her best all the time. Very open with students and helps improve students. She tells you what to study (which is quite a bit) but makes the resources readily available and believes every student can do their best with hard work and determination.


  • Jill does a post-conference group chat after every clinical group, and she encourages us to think about what was really going on with each other’s patients. After getting a report from each student, Jill asks us specific questions as to why or what was going on with a patient and why that particular thing could have caused something else to happen. She does a super job at getting our “nurse” brains to start thinking critically and really thinking about the physiological processes of the human body.
  • She has such an uplifting spirit and is so friendly to everybody. There is nothing that I would be scared to talk to her about because I know that she isn’t going to judge me or give me harsh criticism for something that I may have done wrong. Instructors like Jill are the kind that make it easier to learn. When you’re not intimidated by your instructor, it makes you want to work harder, and it makes your thought processes much easier because you’re not nervous.
  • She is calm, and I believe that she truly loves to watch us learn and grow into the young nurses that we are, and that’s what makes me want to be like her someday.
  • Jill is a great teacher, clinical instructor and nurse! She is always encouraging me to look into jobs I think I will want and always has feedback for me.

Nicole’s inspiration to deliver her best as an instructor stems from the basic reciprocity that comes with teaching and learning. “Being in the classroom and seeing students understand and comprehend the material gives me the determination and drive to be the best person that I can be,” she says. “I honestly love what I do.”

Jill primarily teaches clinical in the hospital setting for students in the BSN program. She holds the nursing profession in the highest regard and is amazed by the selflessness, diligence and compassion so many nurses bring to work every day. She says, “I want students to leave Clarkson College excited to make a difference for those they care for. This makes it so much easier to do my best within the clinical setting so students become great nurses of the future.”

Clarkson College began offering the Apple Award in 2003. Along with sponsoring the award, Faculty Senate is responsible for seeking nominations from colleagues and current students, reviewing the submissions and electing the recipients via a majority rule. The spring 2016 recipients were Linda Jensen, Ph.D., M.N., R.N., Nursing Professor, and Tracy Ozzello, Assistant Nursing Professor.