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Wayne State Geography Professor Receives National Distinguished Teaching Award

Published Thursday, April 13th, 2017

Dr. Lesli Rawlings has received the Higher Education Distinguished Teaching Award from the National Council for Geographic Education.

Lesli RawlingsThe National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) has honored Wayne State College associate geography professor Dr. Lesli Rawlings with the Higher Education Distinguished Teaching Award. The award recognizes and supports excellence in geography teaching among college educators.

Rawlings will be recognized at the National Conference on Geography Education on July 29 in Albuquerque, N.M.

“It is truly an honor to receive the Higher Education Distinguished Teaching Award from the NCGE,” said Rawlings. “The NCGE recognizes educators who have made exceptional contributions to geographic education, service, and research.”

“I’ve been teaching at WSC since August 2010 and enjoy sharing my enthusiasm and passion for geography with my students. I usually work over eight hours a day, six days a week, preparing lectures and developing assignments, which displays the relevance of geography in our lives.”

Rawlings challenges her students to connect current events with geographical concepts by assigning them “geography in the news” homework and having them present their findings and related maps to the class. They also discuss worldwide events such as Russia’s annexation of Crimea, North Korea test firing missiles, the Syrian refugee crisis, terrorism, and natural disasters. Her urban geography class is also required to attend a city council or planning commission meeting.

Geospatial technology plays a big part in geography education at Wayne State College. Rawlings led the effort to create the geospatial technology minor at WSC. She has guided students in Service-Learning projects based on this mapping and measuring technology, including creating an interactive map of historic buildings and artwork in Wayne. In another project, her students assisted St. Mary’s fourth, fifth, and sixth graders to learn GPS through geocaching, which met the Nebraska Social Studies Standards involving direction, navigation, and absolute/relative locations for these grade levels.

Rawlings serves as WSC’s co-advisor of Gamma Theta Upsilon, an international geographical honor society. As co-advisor, she introduced the WSC campus-wide geography bowl in honor of Geography Awareness Week in November. She has also served as one of the judges at the National Geographic State Bee in Omaha and has taught K-12 teachers about soil conservation by having them create GIS story maps.

“Teaching geography is very important to me, especially training students for 21st century careers,” Rawlings said.