Amy Berndtson, senior lecturer of biology, has been awarded the annual David and Cheryl Morley Career Distinguished Teaching Award.
The Morley award was established in 2018 in honor of Kathy O. Smith. It recognizes a career of distinguished service in the classroom and related pedagogical endeavors. The award is presented to non-tenure track faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences who demonstrate innovative teaching and who are driven to improve the curriculum and perform excellently in classroom instruction, attracting intellectually engaged students to the College.
Berndtson has been a member of the IU Department of Biology teaching faculty since 1999. During the last ten years, she has taught Introductory Biology (BIOL-L 104), Foundations of Biology: Biological Mechanisms (BIOL-L 112), and Endocrinology Laboratory (BIOL-Z 469). She also teaches Human Dilemmas (HUBI-B 300), a course in the Human Biology Program. Through these courses, Berndtson has introduced thousands of undergraduates to many of the diverse mechanisms and unifying principles of biology.
Student interaction is a critical component of Berndtson's teaching methods—regardless of the class size. She finds the best way to engage students is to make sure they can connect what they are learning in class to real-world problems facing our communities, nation, and planet. Berndtson also finds it helpful to put herself in her students’ shoes and shares with them how uncertain she felt when she was a first-year college student.
"I became a better teacher when my daughter attended college," says Berndtson. "Talking to her about her own curricular and extracurricular experiences also helped me to relate to the numerous challenges my students face.
Berndtson is definitely doing something right. She received Biology's Senior Class Award for Teaching Excellence and Commitment to Students in 2003 and 2017, the IU Trustees Teaching Award in 2009 and 2016, and the College of Arts and Science's coveted James P. Holland Award for Exemplary Teaching and Service to Students in 2016.
In general, Berndtson considers the highlight of her IU teaching career to be the ability to watch many of her students grow both intellectually and personally during their IU journeys. Frequently, she has taught the same students during their first and last semesters at IU. Many of them have gone on to excel in careers in research, medicine, teaching, and public health.
"I am very proud of them," Berndtson says. "I enjoy the updates they send me as they progress through the various phases of their graduate and professional training."
In addition to being an honor, the award provides a salary supplement with the understanding that the recipient will sponsor or help sponsor two pedagogical events the following year. Berndtson is excited to get started on her proposed projects.