Charles Edwin Bessie Teaching Award from the Botanical Society of America

Ickert-Bond Lab: systematics meets ecology, paleontology, and genomics

Charles Edwin Bessie Teaching Award from the Botanical Society of America

Honored to have been selected as the recipient of the Charles Edwin Bessie Teaching Award by the Botanical Society of America. The award was given at the recent joint annual meeting of the Botanical Society of America/ American Society of Plant Taxonomists/ International Association of Plant Taxonomy in Anchorage last week. This award recognizes individuals whose work has impacted botanical education at a regional, national and/or international level.

BSA Charles Edward Bessey Teaching Award 2022

Charles Edwin Bessey is remembered as one of the great developers of botanical education in the United States of America. His work and dedication to improving the educational aspects of Botany are most noted in what Nebraskans call “The Bessey Era” (1886-1915), during which Nebraska developed an extraordinary program in botany and ranked among the top five schools in the US for the number of its undergraduates who became famous botanists.

I am very humbled by this recognition and so grateful to all my mentors who have so generously shared their knowledge with me, who have patiently guided me to become the teacher, systematic botanists, and researcher that I am today. And of course the many instructional designers who have cheered me on during recordings as I have terrible stage fright and do not like to stand in front of a camera. It almost brings me to tears every time I read the many support letters I have received for this award. Thank you all for reaching out and nominating me! I would like to include a few excerpts here:

Dr. Ickert-Bond’s course materials are a series of video modules, each short enough for a student to digest, grouped into topics. The “Learning glass” presentations are superb, with Steffi speaking to the camera while drawing, labeling, and describing aspects of plant form and structure. Her drawings are clean and accurate, her writing is neat, and her diction is clear. These are evidence of a tremendous amount of planning, preparation, and technical support by both Steffi and the University of Alaska. They were far better than anything I could have done under the circumstances and, truth be told, better than anything I could have done even with the time and resources. Students in her online class are fortunate, indeed!

…she comes to teaching with a special empathy for students who may not always feel at home with learning. This ability to understand a student’s needs is especially important in the work Steffi has done with underrepresented groups, both in formal teaching and in various outreach activities in Alaska with the diverse populations there‘. 

In 2022, sitting behind a podium and lecturing to students in a classroom is not an option. Engaging with students to support their learning, virtually or in person, in classrooms or at home, and in an inclusive way that directly incorporates social, environmental and climate justice is critical if we are to change the way in which higher education is contributing to the sustainability of our ecosystems and justice for future generations. Through inclusive pedagogy that uses innovative technology combined with an artistic and creative vision to engage students in critical learning about plants, habitats and biodiversity science, Dr. Steffi Ickert-Bond embodies the action and spirit of the Charles Bessey Teaching Award‘. 

A tribute to one of the greats in my educational journey has just been published in the Journal of the Botanical Institute of Texas that I co-edited with another giant teacher and mentor Dr. Kathleen Pigg [Link]. My colleague Dr. Ute Kaden and I detail some of the innovative teaching approaches in one of the contributions of the memorial issue for Dr. Donald J. Pinkava. North to the future: A new asynchronous delivery of the classic “flora class” at the University of Alaska Fairbanks [Link] Some figures from the paper below as well as more extraordinary work by some of my students in the non-major course Introduction to Alaska Flora. So proud of what they have accomplished in just one short month over the summer in this course. See more at examples and links to all teaching modules here.

Virtual herbarium tour (ALA) using annotations in ThingLink.
Herbarium cabinet with specimens annotated with images from nature.
Student Final Project in BIOL190 – dissection examples.
Student Final Project- Parnassia palustris dissection. This student had zero prior knowledge and did an amazing job with both the dissections, photography and labeling!
Student Final Project – Eurybia sibirica dissection. Another well done dissection. So proud of all of them. At right an example of the pressed specimen assignment from one of the students.

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