Pictured with Libby Stoddard are (from left to right) Ron MacQuarrie, Dean, School of Graduate Studies (UMKC), Steven Graham, Vice President (UM System) and Robert Stein, Executive Director (Missouri Department of Higher Education)

Libby Stoddard = Excellence in Education

UMKC Professor of Physics, Receives 2009 Governor’s Award for Excellence in Education

University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) physics professor Elizabeth (Libby) R. Stoddard, Ph.D., received the 2009 Governor’s Award for Excellence in Education, one of 15 educators from colleges and universities around the state selected for the honor. In addition to her teaching skills, Stoddard’s research in theoretical nuclear physics has been published in numerous journals.

Robert Stein, Executive Director of the Missouri Department of Higher Education, congratulated Stoddard and the others for meeting the exacting standards of performance that are the basis for the Governor’s Award: effective teaching, innovative course design and delivery, effective advising, service to the university community, commitment to high standards of excellence, and success in nurturing student achievement.

The luncheon and presentation ceremony, hosted by Governor Jay Nixon and members of the Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education, were recently held on the campus of Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo.

“Because the award comes from my peers – so many great professors whom I admire so much - I feel tremendously humbled and honored,” Stoddard said. “I feel lucky to be an educator, working along with my colleagues here at UMKC and striving to serve students and teachers better every day. That is intrinsically motivating to me.”

Stoddard received a bachelor of arts in physics from William Jewell College in 1993, and her masters (1997) and Ph.D. (2000) degrees in physics from Washington University. Since coming to UMKC in 2001, Stoddard has secured funding of $1.1 million to use for teacher education programs, to improve elementary teachers’ backgrounds in science. In turn, they are better prepared to teach scientific principles to their students.

Stoddard and the teachers – most of who come from urban districts – prepare materials and devise attention-getting methods of instruction. They assess a variety of teaching practices for their effect on learning.

In one study published in the International Journal of Science Education, Stoddard and her collaborators, Professors Louis Odom and Steven LaNasa, examined the effect of various factors on student achievement in middle schools. The results showed that group experiments and less note taking during class contributed to greater student achievement. Stoddard’s “labs in bags” were mentioned by her department chair, Michael Kruger, as the best kind of experiment – inexpensive and made from everyday materials.

“Many of the achievements for which I received the award I share with my science education research collaborators, and I am grateful for this award as recognition of their efforts as well,” Stoddard said.

In her testimonial letter, UMKC Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Karen Vorst praised Stoddard for her adhering to her guiding principles: if taught well, learning science is challenging, enjoyable and rewarding; everyone can learn science; and society is enriched by people who reach their full scientific potential.

Posted: May 15, 2009

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"I feel lucky to be an educator, working along with my colleagues here at UMKC and striving to serve students and teachers better every day. That is intrinsically motivating to me."

Elizabeth (Libby) R. Stoddard, Ph.D.
Professor of Physics