By Kourtney David
Nate Scholten, a third-year Ph.D. candidate in Curriculum and Teaching in the School of Education’s Department of Curriculum & Instruction, received the Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award in recognition of his excellence as a teacher and student.
Scholten was recognized for teaching Secondary Social Studies Practicum in the fall 2021 semester. The course is for junior-level students, called Teaching Associates (TAs), who are studying to become history teachers. He emphasizes the importance of connecting with students in the classroom and making civics an important aspect of education.
Scholten graduated with an undergraduate degree in education from Spring Arbor University in Spring Arbor, Mich., and did his student teaching at Rift Valley Academy in Kenya, where he also met his wife.
“I had grown up in the same small town in Michigan for the first 21 years of my life and just desired to go see other places,” Scholten said. “I had gone to Cambodia my junior year of college, and I kind of tasted a different culture for the first time, just experiencing new things for the first time. And so I was like, ‘I want to go somewhere crazy for my student teaching.’”
After getting married, Scholten moved to California and taught high school social studies for four years. He eventually settled in Waco in 2018 to earn his Master of Science in Education at Baylor.
Scholten first co-taught the TA course during the last year of his MSEd and has continued teaching it by himself since. Now, as a third-year Ph.D. student and instructor, he is also exploring dissertation topics. Although he doesn’t have one nailed down yet, he said, “It’s going to be about civics education in middle school classrooms; that’s the big, broad focus of it.”
Scholten said his biggest inspiration to pursue civics education has been his advisor Dr. Brooke Blevins, Associate Professor and Department Chair of Curriculum & Instruction, whom he has been working with for four years. Blevins co-created iEngage, a week-long summer camp for middle school students, and Scholten has been a leader for that.
“The goal of the camp is to get students to think about citizenship in different ways,” Scholten said. “A lot of young people think citizenship is voting, or obeying laws, picking up trash, serving on a jury, but this camp is trying to get students to understand that, even as young people, you can be citizens and do things that impact your community in a positive way.”
Each semester, the Baylor Graduate School presents this award to three graduate student instructors who demonstrate exemplary teaching in the categories of science, social sciences, and humanities. Scholten won in the social sciences division.
Nominees for the Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award must teach at least three hours per semester in an academic course or lab before being chosen to go through an extensive vetting process. Award winners are then picked based on student evaluations and a letter of recommendation from a faculty member.
Scholten was recommended by Blevins. In her nomination letter, she said Scholten learns alongside his students, preferring a relaxed, personal teaching style over traditional lecturing, with a focus on developing transformative learning opportunities for his students.
“Nate’s instruction cultivates opportunities to affirm student experiences, encourage multiplicity, and engage students in structured inquiry,” Blevins said. “Rarely would you see Nate standing at the front of his classroom lecturing; rather he is seated around the table with his students as they wrestle with difficult topics, consider multiple perspectives, and work to develop new understandings.”
Baylor’s School of Education celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2019. With more than 60 full-time faculty members, the school’s growing research portfolio complements its long-standing commitment to excellence in teaching and student mentoring. The school boasts a variety of academic program options across its three departments: Curriculum and Instruction, Educational Leadership, and Educational Psychology. Baylor’s award-winning undergraduate program in teacher education serves approximately 400 students and has earned national distinction for innovative partnerships with local schools that provide future teachers with extensive clinical preparation.
More than 700 graduate students pursue advanced study and professional preparation in master’s, Ed.S., Ed.D., and Ph.D. programs. With exciting new academic initiatives both at home and abroad, the school is in a period of significant expansion and is poised for greater impact through the production of meaningful, high-quality research and the preparation of outstanding leaders, teachers, and clinicians. Visit www.baylor.edu/SOE to learn more.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.