George and Frankino Honored With NSM’s Butler Teaching Award

Faculty Members Challenge, Engage and Inspire Their Students

Dedicated. Patient. Outstanding.

Such are the traits that set great teachers apart. Such are the words mentioned, again and again, in letters recommending Rebecca George, instructional assistant professor of mathematics, and W. Anthony Frankino, associate professor of biology and biochemistry, as the 2016 recipients of the John C. Butler Excellence in Teaching Award. This award, which was established in memory of former College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Dean John Butler, recognizes faculty members who challenge, engage and inspire their students.

Every year, the Butler Award is given to one instructional faculty member and one tenured/tenure-track faculty member, and is accompanied by a plaque and a $5,000 prize. Award recipients are also recognized at the NSM Convocation in May. Nominations may be made by NSM departments, student organizations, faculty and students. George and Frankino received letters of nomination and support from faculty, current students and former students.

Rebecca George – Mathematics

To her students, George is a teacher with a campus-wide reputation for having a gift for breaking down complicated problems into easily understood concepts. As a former student noted, “I was terrified of taking a Calculus course after a very long time spent away from school, yet Prof. George explained the concepts in ways that turned a monster of a subject into one of the best courses I’ve ever taken.” Another student wrote that “Prof. George’s patient explanations helped reduce my anxiety about math.”

George leading a Calculus study session. (Photo credit, Chris Watts, NSM)George leading a Calculus study session. (Photo credit, Chris Watts, NSM)George, who joined the Department of Mathematics in 2007, teaches a wide range of courses, including Calculus I, II and III, Introductory Statistics and Statistics. Her reputation for being an effective and dedicated teacher means that her sections fill up quickly, often within a day or two, and that her students consistently score the highest on department-wide exams.

In addition to her teaching responsibilities, George has created a lasting impact on the quality of instruction offered at UH by instituting massive changes to the instructional material used for Engineering Mathematics, Calculus I, II, and III, as well as Introductory Statistics and Statistics.

As one recommender wrote, “George’s contributions to our undergraduate teaching program and to the implementation of instructional technology into our undergraduate classes have been outstanding.”

In addition to her impact at UH, George also created educational material that is helping students the world over. She created two Massive Online Open Courses on Coursera to prepare students for the AP Calculus and Statistics exam. Meanwhile, George’s creation of a database of electronic problem sets is being used by hundreds of high school AP Calculus teachers, and thousands of their students, in order to prepare for the AP Calculus exams.

As one student wrote, “There is a great fondness and respect for Prof. George among students. We appreciate having her.”

W. Anthony Frankino – Biology and Biochemistry

Frankino, who joined the UH faculty in 2007, is described by many as being a dedicated teacher and mentor, one who spends time developing the talents of undergraduate and graduate students alike. As one student wrote, “Dr. Frankino has a distinct ability to identify latent potential in his students, often in a way that can change their lives.”

George leading a Calculus study session. (Photo credit, Chris Watts, NSM)Frankino with students in the Galapagos, as part of an interdisciplinary, research-based study abroad course. (Photo credit, Rebecca Keim, UH biology major)Frankino teaches Evolutionary Biology, which is a required class for all biology majors. Of this course, one student wrote that “the concepts presented in Dr. Frankino’s course were not delivered to us as pre-packaged facts but rather as narrative descriptions of the scientific questions and processes that led to our current knowledge.” Another student shared that “I entered Dr. Frankino’s evolution course with little knowledge and many misconceptions about evolution. I found the course to be deeply challenging and rewarding.”

In addition to teaching Evolutionary Biology, Frankino has developed several courses and mentored countless numbers of students in research. Dozens of undergraduates, from colleges across the university, have conducted research in Frankino’s lab, going on to graduate school, medical school, dental school and other related science careers.

One of the graduate courses he developed, “Scientific Communication,” teaches students how to effectively communicate their research. Many of his students have pointed to the guidance they received in this course as being central to their success as scientists. Reflecting on the impact of this course, one recommender stated that “Dr. Frankino makes every graduate student in our program better.”

In collaboration with Andrew Hamilton, NSM’s Associate Dean for Student Success, Frankino also developed the interdisciplinary Honors College course “Evolving Galapagos,” which culminates in a trip to the islands for interested students. One student wrote that this course was “unlike any other course I’ve ever taken.”

- Rachel Fairbank, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics