K.C. Busch, Ph.D., an assistant professor of STEM education at the NC State College of Education, thought that she would enter into an environmental law career. But she realized that she would be able to have more of an impact as an educator, teaching thousands of students who would go out into the world to make a difference.
Her teaching efforts have paid off and were publicly recognized when she received NC State University’s 2019-20 Outstanding Teacher Award.
The Outstanding Teacher Award recognizes creative and innovative teaching and learning practices. Faculty must be nominated for the award by both peers and students.
“Those letters of support from my students made me cry. They were so unbelievably nice and noticed the little things that I do that are really purposeful to try to help students learn,” she said. “I felt like I had already won the award at that point.”
In the nomination letters, students cited Busch’s “Peace In, Peace Out” activity as one of the highlights of her courses. The activity is a weekly opportunity Busch gives her students to share the good things that have happened to them in the past week, as well as share something they’re looking forward to in the week ahead.
“Students commented about how meaningful it felt for them to be able to connect personally with their peers and with me as an instructor,” Busch said. “I really look forward to them sharing and I learn a lot about my students that way, about their personal lives and what’s important to them.”
Students also said that they enjoy the level of community-building offered for those who enroll in her Learning STEM in Informal Contexts course, which she developed in 2018.
Through this course, students work with informal education providers in the Triangle — including the Museum of Life and Sciences, the Museum of Natural Sciences, the Museum of History and the State Farmers Market — to complete a project that incorporates the students’ interests and the organization’s needs.
“This is really driven from a standpoint of providing services. It’s very land-grant mission-based, using and leveraging these resources that we have at NC State to better our community and doing that through our coursework,” Busch said.
Busch said she believes developing courses, activities and strategies for students provides an outlet for her creative side, but one of her greatest joys as an educator is the ability to mentor students. As a person who has experienced good mentorship from the time she entered college, she said she believes the opportunity to mentor is a way to pay it forward.
“That mentorship role is really important to me and I enjoy that opportunity to help students achieve whatever goals and dreams that they have. It’s really meaningful,” she said.
As the winner of the 2019-20 Outstanding Teacher Award, Busch will become a member of the Academy of Outstanding Teachers for the duration of her time at NC State and will be recognized in the university’s Spring 2020 Commencement Program.
Busch has also been chosen as one of five Outstanding Teaching Award recipients to receive the NC State Alumni Association’s Teaching Award.