Professor Rochelle Johnson helps students pursue their passions
Learning isn’t confined to the classroom at The College of Idaho. Often, it takes place during impromptu conversations between students and their professors or during off-campus research trips. And it takes place in Dr. Rochelle Johnson’s backyard, where she and her husband, C of I biology professor Dr. Don Mansfield, often host students for barbeques and other gatherings less than a block from campus.
“I marvel at how much my students have accomplished in a short time,” said Johnson, a professor of English and environmental studies who joined the C of I faculty in 1999. “I feel that the C of I gives me the opportunity to explore my own interest and passions with students, who then go out and actually use those skills in the world to pursue their own passions.”
Johnson’s interest in getting to know each student is one of the primary reasons she received the 2010 Idaho Professor of the Year Award from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Each year, the foundation chooses a winner from each state based on scholarly achievement, innovative teaching, community and professional service and recommendations from colleagues, alumni and students.
Combining community outreach with a hands-on learning opportunity for her students, Johnson played a significant role in the Indian Creek revitalization project in downtown Caldwell. Her students went to city meetings, did research on the environmental and redevelopment issues involved in the project and, as part of an advanced writing course, wrote the book Rediscovering Indian Creek.
“It is a natural history, a really detailed, informed history of Indian Creek and its importance to the area,” Johnson said of the book, now studied in multiple biology courses at the College.
Those student authors, like those in each of Johnson’s classes, benefit from her passion for the environment, for writing, and for seeing her students succeed. Johnson’s work fostering collaboration between the C of I and the City of Caldwell has received national attention and was featured at a meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
Johnson isn’t the only C of I professor committed to fostering positive relationships with students. In a six-year span, Johnson is one of four C of I teachers to be named Idaho Professor of the Year, joining Dr. Rob Dayley (2011), Dr. Kerry Hunter (2008) and Dr. Jim Angresano (2006).
"We have a very productive and dedicated faculty doing innovative work pedagogically as well as in community outreach,” Johnson said. “Those are things we do well here. This award reminds our students, alumni and the community that we live what we say we are.”