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Two earn awards for non-tenure track teaching

PULLMAN, Wash. – Senior instructor Nicholas Cerruti and clinical assistant professor Kathleen McAteer are recipients of the annual President’s Distinguished Teaching Award for Non-tenure Track Faculty at Washington State University.

The award will be among those presented at the Celebrating Excellence Recognition Banquet on March 27, part of the WSU Showcase annual celebration of faculty, staff and student achievement. Make Showcase reservations at

Award criteria include: igniting a passion for learning; innovative mentoring and teaching; valuing and responding to diversity; increasing students’ intellectual growth, critical thinking and integrated views; and organizing/conducting new courses or revitalizing existing ones.

Cerruti became a physics and astronomy instructor at WSU Pullman in 2006 and is described by a nominator as accessible and patient. He has the ability to make difficult concepts clear and is a common-sense innovator. Cerruti concentrates on developing his students’ critical thinking skills and discussing practical application of their learning.

He is helping restructure the Physics 150 class for future middle school science teachers. As a 19-year member of the American Association for Physics Teachers, he searches its journal for better ways to present material and engage students. He is a level 1 certified WSU Academic Advising Association instructor.

The WSU student chapter of SPIE – the international society for optics and photonics – awarded him the Outstanding Lecturer Award in 2014. He was the primary mentor on a federally funded grant to improve graduate student teaching and help these students develop creative labs and demonstrations. He served as an officer representing WSU with the Society of Physics Students and was advisor for the WSU chapter, which won an award for outstanding chapter in 2013.

McAteer arrived at WSU Tri-Cities from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in 2002 as a researcher in biological sciences. But she turned out to be an extraordinary teacher, as well – among the best on the campus, according to a nominator: “I have never encountered anyone more passionate about teaching, more committed to student learning or more professional in her approach.”

She is assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs at WSU Tri-Cities. Her mentoring of undergraduates results in them regularly winning awards, scholarships and fellowships. She loves learning, models this for her students and in turn energizes them: “She knows how to get students asking the right kinds of questions about themselves and the world around them,” said a nominator.

She developed a “genuinely remarkable” interdisciplinary course about the Hanford nuclear site in the Tri-Cities, complete with high-impact learning practices like case studies and evidence-based learning. She recruits scientists to make presentations at a local elementary school and is a presenter for the Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement program at area high schools.

In addition to the banquet, the Showcase celebrations include the Distinguished Faculty Address (March 26); the Academic Showcase display of faculty, staff and student work (March 27); and SURCA, the Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (March 30).


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