Valparaiso University has honored Amanda Zelechoski, Ph.D., as the inaugural recipient of its Arts and Sciences Emerging Teacher Award, which encourages and recognizes excellence in teaching among junior faculty members.

“It is an incredible honor to receive the inaugural A&S Emerging Teacher Award. As I am surrounded by some of the best teachers I have encountered in my career, to be recognized in this way is truly humbling,” Professor Zelechoski said.

Professor Zelechoski joined Valpo’s psychology department in fall 2011. Her scholarship focuses primarily on investigating psychological issues faced by underserved children and adolescents in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. Professor Zelechoski strives to improve the systemic experiences of at-risk youth through research to reduce their future risk of engaging in violent behavior.

“Amanda has established herself as a highly effective and engaging teacher,” Jon Kilpinen, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said. “It is clear that both students and peers recognize her as a superb teacher.”

Award criteria includes positive course evaluations, innovative or creative pedagogy with demonstrable learning results, and the development of at least one new course that enriches the department’s curriculum. Professor Zelechoski was nominated by Dan Arkkelin, professor and chair of psychology, who in his nomination wrote, “Amanda is a talented, enthusiastic, dedicated and engaging instructor- in short, she is a natural teacher who is truly committed to the enrichment and development of her students.”

Recently, Professor Zelechoski partnered with the sociology department to develop an Inside-Out Prison Exchange course that brought together 15 Valpo students and 15 incarcerated individuals to study psychology- and criminology-related topics. Professor Zelechoski said the class, taught in Westville Correctional Facility, was a transformative experience for both the students and instructors and fostered open dialogue while dispelling stereotypes.

“One of the things I enjoy most about teaching at Valpo is the ability to interact with students inside and outside of the classroom, which allows us to get to know them well, learn about and encourage their passions, and see them evolve throughout their years here,” Professor Zelechoski said. “I consider it an extraordinary privilege to teach at a university that encourages and supports faculty in creating innovative classroom and research opportunities for our students.”