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Last modified: Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Gwendolyn Mettetal

Distinguished Teaching Award -- The Frederic Bachman Lieber Memorial Award

Professor of Education and Psychology
Department of Secondary Education and Foundations
School of Education
Department of Psychology
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
IU South Bend
Appointed to IU faculty, 1989
B.A., East Tennessee State University, 1974
M.A., East Tennessee State University, 1976
Ph.D., University of Illinois, 1982

Gwendolyn Mettetal

Gwendolyn Mettetal

Print-Quality Photo

Gwendolyn Mettetal loves teaching. She loves learning about teaching. She loves teaching about teaching—even though, surprisingly enough, as a graduate student in psychology more than 30 years ago, she was certain that she never wanted to teach.

Uneasy speaking in front of people, she begged to get out of her first teaching assignment. Thanks to some mentoring from her peers, however, her outlook changed rather quickly. After two weeks, teaching the class was fun, not dreadful. "When several students told me that the class helped them understand and improve their social interactions and relationships, I was hooked!" says Mettetal.

She's been paying it forward ever since, not only diligently working to improve her own teaching skills, but also leading organizations such as the University Center for Excellence in Teaching (UCET) at South Bend and offering countless community workshops and media interviews to help teachers and parents alike become better at what they do.

"Dr. Mettetal has been enriching the culture of teaching on our campus and in our community for over 20 years, supporting and promoting her colleagues and students with no thought for herself," writes Rebecca Torstrick, professor of anthropology and associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "She has made a significant impact on the careers of many other award-winning teachers at IU South Bend. She not only stands among the best; she has helped many of us earn our own places within that cadre."

Mettetal has been awarded the IU Trustees' Teaching Award three times and has also been selected as a member of the Faculty Colloquium on Excellence in Teaching. She served on the campus committee that planned the facility for UCET and then agreed to be the founding director, establishing the structures and expectations for the center and creating numerous programs that have mentored and supported faculty. She was one of the founders of the Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, for which she continues to review. She also helped establish the Midwest Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) conferences.

Mettetal's courses over the years have included a wide range of teaching topics, along with courses on childhood and adolescent development, psychology of teaching, marriage and family, and other topics that confront and confound many people throughout their lives.

Through her work, she says, she can make a difference in the lives of her students and, through them, their own children or students. "Because I teach at a regional campus, I frequently run into former students and I am always pleased when they tell me how they have used their knowledge of child development or their skill in conflict resolution in their work or family life," she says.

Mettetal has discovered that there is no one teaching strategy that works best for all situations. Thus, she uses lectures, group discussion, role-playing, student-led presentations, and projects to connect with her students. She has taught topics such as Positive Discipline and Children's Temperament to undergrads, graduate students, parents, classroom teachers, and day care providers who have no college experience. She makes the same points, she says, but her presentation style and assessments may vary dramatically. "When I visit her classes," Torstrick says, "they are noisy, energetic, and comfortable places."

A self-described "self-improvement junkie," Mettetal says part of the joy of teaching for her is the "constant opportunity to try something new." She identifies with a quote by Katharine Graham, former publisher of The Washington Post—"To love what you do and know that it matters, what could be more fun?"

"I love teaching and I know that it makes a difference in people's lives," Mettetal says of her career, which has included serving as both interim dean of the School of Education at IU South Bend and chair of the Department of Psychology. "And," she adds, "I am certainly having a lot of fun!"