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Todd Pagano Named 2012 U.S. Professor of the Year!

Todd Pagano
Todd Pagano, an associate professor and director of the Laboratory Science Technology program at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, has been named “2012 U.S. Professor of the Year” by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
Pagano, whose award was in the Master’s University and Colleges category, credits his success to blending two elements: his joy of teaching deaf and hard-of-hearing students, and his passion for chemistry.
“There’s a passion for both chemistry and seeing the students succeed in class, an internship or a permanent job,” he says. “Knowing my students have acquired knowledge that can make a difference in their lives by helping them obtain a job is truly rewarding.”
“It’s humbling,” Pagano says. “It’s wonderful that we can provide the technical knowledge that students need to use on their jobs. I’m fortunate to work at a truly unique place, where deaf and hard-of-hearing students are taught applied knowledge, the roots of their trade, self-advocacy and lifelong learning skills.”
To say Pagano engages his students is an understatement. It’s not uncommon for him to jump on a table and dance to illustrate the jitteriness of an electron. In a recent class, he had two students lock arms and walk around the classroom to illustrate a chemical bond, while tossing Koosh balls representing energy absorbed and expended.
“As a teacher, you do everything in your power to convey concepts to help students understand,” he says. “I’m a visual learner. I appreciated any time a teacher would do a visual demonstration, so I try to have at least one visual example in every single class. I’ll mix chemicals together and they do something and it leaves the students guessing for a moment why this is happening. And hopefully at the end of the class, they understand why these chemicals reacted in the way they did. Seeing that look of understanding on their faces because of the way you were able to convey an idea brings a great feeling of satisfaction.”
Students graduating from RIT/NTID’s Laboratory Science Technology program have a nearly 100 percent employment rate in jobs across the country.
Pagano also is working on several research projects. All of his research grants are written to include student involvement. Subjects of his research include access to safe drinking water as a result of a changing climate, tracking carcinogen disposition in the lungs as a function of cigarette smoking and measuring the nutritional value of fruit to see how it impacts the migration patterns of birds.
“I want to keep a healthy balance between teaching and research in my career,” Pagano says. “I think students benefit from both aspects to help them learn and succeed in finding careers.”
About the awards:
The U.S. Professors of the Year program salutes the most outstanding undergraduate instructors in the country—those who excel in teaching and positively influence the lives and careers of students. Sponsored by CASE and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, it is the only national program to recognize excellence in undergraduate teaching and mentoring.
All undergraduate teachers in the United States, of any academic rank at any type of undergraduate institution, are eligible for the award. Entries are judged by top U.S. educators and other active participants in education.
The Council for Advancement and Support of Education launched the awards program in 1981. That same year, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching began hosting the final round of judging, and in 1982, became the primary sponsor.
Rochester Institute of Technology is internationally recognized for academic leadership in computing, engineering, imaging science, sustainability, and fine and applied arts, in addition to unparalleled support services for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. RIT enrolls nearly 18,000 full- and part-time students in more than 200 career-oriented and professional programs, and its cooperative education program is one of the oldest and largest in the nation.
NTID, one of nine colleges of RIT, was established by Congress in 1965 to provide college opportunities for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals who were underemployed in technical fields. Today, 1,530 students attend NTID; more than 1,350 are deaf or hard of hearing. Others are hearing students enrolled in interpreting or deaf education programs. NTID’s Center on Employment assists NTID students with finding co-op and permanent jobs. More than 100 interpreters, tutors, and notetakers support students in and out of the classroom. Visit: www.rit.edu/NTID.

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