Alma Robinson, an instructor in the Department of Physics in the College of Science, has received the university’s 2018 Alumni Teaching Award for Teaching Excellence.

Sponsored by the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, the Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching is presented annually to as many as two Virginia Tech faculty members. Recipients receive a $2,000 cash price and are inducted into the Academy of Teaching Excellence.

Robinson began her teaching career at a high school in Northern Virginia. After a few weeks in the classroom, she learned that the deepest rewards in teaching go beyond the subject matter and, instead, come from building relationships with students and empowering them.

She came to Virginia Tech to help recruit and train the next generation of high school physics teachers. She wants to provide physics majors with positive undergraduate teaching opportunities and encourage them to inspire young people by becoming physics teachers.

During each class, she probes her students with conceptual questions and uses a think-pair-share/peer instruction model. The model asks them to elicit their prior knowledge and grapple with their preconceptions, articulate their thoughts to a classmate, and reconcile opposing perspectives by appealing to their personal experience, reason, and the laws of physics.

“Her drive and desire to teach to the best of her ability was clear in every choice she made. As my friend and I progressed through our college career, she encouraged and guided us in our desired respective career fields. She gave us both connections to further our careers, research for myself and an internship for my friend, and continued to support us with her guidance,” wrote Ashley Adkins, a former student, in a letter of nomination.

In 2015, the Virginia Tech Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research awarded her “Teacher of the Week.” In 2018, Robinson received the Certificate of Teaching Excellence from the College of Science.

Written by Lindsey Grooms, Class of 2019