"Caring is the metaphor and ethic that guides my philosophy of teaching," says UW Bothell Nursing Professor Suzanne Sikma, a recipient of the 2003 UW Distinguished Teaching Award.
Sikma believes that valuing the learner is the foundation of effective teaching. To this end, she makes the effort to know her students as individuals, trying to understand the different needs, styles, commitments, boundaries and interests they bring to the educational experience.
"I encourage questions and try to model reciprocal relationships with students, other faculty and staff," says Sikma, who has been at UW Bothell since 1997. "It is critical to connect students with-and optimize their use of-diverse learning resources both at UWB and in the community."
This desire to value, respect and challenge her students and to understand their diverse backgrounds, perspectives and opinions in the classroom creates a rich educational environment.
"She has the ability to help her students learn the application of theory for use in our lives and work situations," says Debbie Pronk, a UW Bothell nursing student. "Each of us participate in class in ways that push the envelope of challenge and discovery. We then have new insights and tools which can be applied in our health care settings and in our community."
Diversity and multicultural awareness are critical to nurses working in today's health care and community environments. In her classroom, "students learn how to make the best use of their own diverse expertise, cultural backgrounds, interests and styles," Sikma says.
"Suzanne is an exceptional teacher," says Nursing Professor Emeritus Anne Loustau, former director of the UWB nursing program. "She comes to academic teaching with a strong background in staff development education and clearly understands the importance of an adult education model in instruction. She is … living proof of the importance of the scholarship of discovery."
Sikma's current research focuses on the elderly. Her work in gerontological nursing, caring and self-determination also enhances her teaching. She was named one of 11 scholars in the 2002 Geriatric Research Scholars and Fellows Program, sponsored by New York University's Division of Nursing.
Sikma's dedication for teaching, coupled with her passion for community practice and focus on the elderly, enables her to create a classroom setting that invites the exchange of ideas and observations.
"Valuing learners includes working sensitively with students who need assistance and encouragement due to language skills, preparation, or other differences," says Sikma. "We all continue to learn together from each other."