In the realm of academia, exceptional educators who go above and beyond to inspire and shape the minds of future generations are worth their weight in gold. Their dedication, passion, and innovative teaching methods serve as beacons of enlightenment for their students. One such educator, Dr. Briana Bettin, has been recognized for her outstanding contributions to education by receiving the prestigious 2022 Distinguished Teaching Award in the Teaching Professor/Professor of Practice/Assistant Professor category at Michigan Technological University. This accolade is a testament to her unwavering commitment to excellence in teaching.
The Multifaceted Educator
Dr. Briana Bettin is a multi-talented educator, holding the position of Assistant Professor in both the Computer Science and Cognitive and Learning Sciences departments at Michigan Technological University. Her educational journey has been marked by an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, leading her to earn a master’s degree in human-computer interaction from Iowa State University and both a bachelor’s and Ph.D. in computer science from Michigan Tech.
Dr. Bettin’s unique expertise is a captivating blend of user experience methodologies and educational research. Her work delves deep into the world of programming students, seeking to understand their unique challenges and uncover the profound impacts of the classroom environment on their learning experiences. With an academic background as diverse as hers, Dr. Bettin brings a wealth of knowledge to her roles, bridging the gap between technology and human-centric disciplines.
Resounding Praise from Colleagues
When an educator garners praise from their peers and superiors, it speaks volumes about the impact they’ve had on their students and the academic community. Dennis Livesay, the Dave House Dean of Computing for the College of Computing at Michigan Tech, has expressed his admiration for Dr. Bettin’s contributions: “In Briana’s short time here, she has quickly become one of the very best educators we have at Michigan Tech. She uses her research in computer science education to support her own classroom methodologies – and to great effect. She’s having a transformative effect on her students, in part because she sees them not merely as students but as citizens looking to cultivate a sense of self and community in their various physical and digital worlds.”
Dr. Bettin’s ability to connect with her students on a personal level is a hallmark of her teaching style. She recognizes that effective teaching transcends the mere dissemination of knowledge—it involves understanding, empathy, and a genuine desire to empower students to achieve their full potential.
Blending Technology and Humanity
Dr. Bettin’s teaching style is characterized by its authenticity and her unwavering dedication to her students. She brings her full self to the classroom, creating an atmosphere where students feel valued and understood. Her approach extends beyond the boundaries of traditional pedagogy; it’s a holistic endeavor that bridges the worlds of technology and humanity.
One of the key elements of her teaching philosophy is the use of relatable examples and analogies to simplify complex computer science concepts. This technique allows students to grasp abstract ideas by connecting them to real-world scenarios. Dr. Bettin firmly believes that grounding these concepts in practical applications helps students not only understand but also retain the information.
While her primary focus is on teaching, Dr. Bettin goes above and beyond the technical aspects of her discipline. She emphasizes the ethical and societal dimensions of computer science, ensuring that her students are not only proficient coders but also responsible digital citizens. Her aim is to help students recognize the far-reaching impact of their work, instilling in them a sense of responsibility for the consequences of their creations.
Creating an Inclusive Learning Environment
Inclusivity and equity are at the core of Dr. Bettin’s teaching philosophy. She is a staunch advocate for creating a classroom environment where every student feels welcome, valued, and capable of achieving their goals. Her commitment to inclusivity extends to accommodating students’ unique needs and circumstances, acknowledging that life’s challenges can affect their ability to learn.
Dr. Bettin understands that mistakes are an integral part of the learning process. Her teaching style encourages students to embrace failure as an opportunity for growth. She believes that it’s essential for students to witness their instructors making mistakes, as it humanizes the learning experience. By demonstrating that everyone, including experts, encounters setbacks, she fosters an environment where students feel comfortable taking risks and learning from their errors.
Her commitment to inclusivity and equity has not gone unnoticed. Kelly Steelman, Chair of the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences at Michigan Tech, commends Dr. Bettin’s approach: “Dr. Bettin is a true champion and practitioner of inclusive teaching pedagogy. From the design of her syllabi to her use of assessments that allow students to demonstrate multiple ways of knowing, it is clear that Briana is learner-centered and equity-focused in all she does.”
Inspiration and Impact
Dr. Bettin’s journey into the world of teaching was inspired by the dedicated educators who influenced her throughout her own educational journey. She attributes her passion for teaching to the remarkable teachers who left an indelible mark on her life. Among them is Mrs. Kjendalen, her high school computing teacher, who introduced her to the world of programming and served as an early role model of female excellence in the field.
Her parents also played pivotal roles in shaping her desire to become an educator. Both valued education and community involvement. Her mother’s diligence in her own schooling and her father’s unwavering support and mentorship left lasting impressions. They instilled in her the belief that education is not only a means of personal growth but also a powerful tool for making a positive impact on society.
Moreover, Dr. Bettin’s academic journey has come full circle, as she pursued her undergraduate studies at Michigan Tech. Her positive experiences as a student at the university inspired her to return for her master’s and Ph.D. degrees. Dr. Linda Ott, her Ph.D. advisor, played a significant role in her academic development. Dr. Ott’s mentorship and guidance helped Dr. Bettin find her niche in the world of computer science education.
It’s noteworthy that Dr. Bettin’s initial career path led her to work in industry as a user experience developer. However, her realization that her true passion lay in academia, research, and teaching prompted her to embark on a new journey. Her transition from industry to academia was driven by a desire to make a profound impact on future generations through education and research.
Receiving the Distinguished Teaching Award has brought newfound inspiration and motivation to Dr. Bettin’s already dynamic career. The recognition of her teaching excellence serves as a powerful catalyst for further innovation and exploration in her field.
As an active researcher in computer science education and educational experiences, Dr. Bettin is poised to leverage this recognition to foster collaborations and partnerships within and beyond Michigan Tech. Her goal is to contribute significantly to advancing the field, particularly in areas related to the intersection of technology and human learning.
In conclusion, Dr. Briana Bettin’s exceptional contributions to education, her dedication to fostering inclusive learning environments, and her commitment to inspiring students make her a truly deserving recipient of the 2022 Distinguished Teaching Award from Michigan Technological University. Her impact extends far beyond the classroom, shaping the minds and futures of the next generation of leaders in technology and beyond.