Instead Wittenberg faculty held an impromptu celebration in honor of Welker at the beginning of Tuesday's regular faculty meeting before he had to hurry off to his class.
Welker's award marks the third time in the past 15 years that Wittenberg has boasted Ohio's top college professor. It also comes on the heels of the awarding of the National Teacher of the Year award to Wittenberg alumna and Springfield City Schools teacher Melody Boyd '87.
Welker, professor of education and director of graduate studies in the department of education at Wittenberg, now ranks among the best college teachers in the nation as he earned this distinction today from The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.
Welker said he is thankful for this recognition because it helps to highlight some of the work that so many people are doing at Wittenberg, including working more directly with area teachers and the students they serve. "I'm surrounded by all sorts of good people here whom I admire and whose teaching inspires me all of the time," Welker says.
Not completely comfortable being singled out for this honor, Welker said he owes so much to others, and he thinks that so many teachers deserve to be applauded and encouraged. He credits the work of the teachers involved with making a positive influence in the lives of his own children, one of whom is a Wittenberg student. "I'm so grateful for their service, and I think that somehow by the stroke of magnificent luck and good fortune I am able to work with them and with others that have the care of kids at the center of their lives," Welker said.
Wittenberg President Baird Tipson has noted that Welker, with his creative mind and innovative teaching style, personifies the close alignment of teacher education and education in the liberal arts. "Bob is an inspiration to his colleagues as well as his students, myself certainly included, and I am deeply proud that he is a member of our faculty. We congratulate him on being recognized for the gifts he shares with our community," Tipson said.
In reviewing the nomination letters for Welker, it is evident that his hard work and dedication to the profession of teaching have not gone unnoticed. "Last semester I was privileged to discover the purpose of education under the guidance of Professor Welker," writes KatiePreuss '04 from Glenview, Ill. "Through his words and actions, he stressed that classroom education must be personal and is essential in building the moral character of young people."
Wittenberg alumna Melissa Stull '94 recommended him as an exemplary educator partly because "his teaching challenged my fellow students and me to move beyond education as solely an intellectual endeavor and to embrace it as a call to learn and serve." Stull said she values her periodic meetings with Welker and noted that they are particularly fulfilling because she knows that he incorporates her current classroom experiences into his curriculum.
Another nominator, Joe Lewis, a teacher with Fulton Elementary School in Springfield, stated, "As Bob molds the young students at Wittenberg, he does so with such quality and respect that he makes it look easy." Lewis noted that he has seen Welker exhausted from more than a full day's work as the chair of a department, teaching responsibilities, facilitating group meetings and community responsibilities. Yet, despite such responsibilities, Welker would still take the time to see a student's play or presentation before driving an hour home to Columbus, Lewis added.
Colleague Alan McEvoy, professor of sociology at Wittenberg, describes Welker as "the best of us. He has the courage to teach and the virtue of patience that allows us to be surprised by our own efforts in a common cause." McEvoy added, "His dedication to the educational community, to scholarship, to service and to the moral enterprise of teaching is unsurpassed."
The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) established the Professors of the Year program in 1981 and works in cooperation with the Carnegie Foundation and various higher education associations in its administration.
There are winners in 45 states and the District of Columbia this year, and CASE assembled two preliminary panels of judges to select finalists. The Carnegie Foundation then convened the third and final panel, which selected the four national winners and state winners. The Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching was founded in 1905 by Andrew Carnegie "to do all things necessary to encourage, uphold and dignify the profession of teaching." The foundation is the only advanced study center for teachers in the world and the third oldest foundation in the nation. Its non-profit research activities are produced by a small group of distinguished scholars.
The Council for Advancement and Support of Education is the largest international association of education institutions with nearly 2,900 colleges, universities, and independent elementary and secondary schools in 44 countries, including the United States, Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom. Representing these institutions are more than 21,000 professionals in the disciplines of alumni relations, communications and fund raising.
Wittenberg University has been a leader in the preparation of undergraduate teacher education for more than a century. In the first ranking of Ohio's 50 teacher education programs released recently, Wittenberg ranked in the top tier with 100 percent of Wittenberg education majors passing the Ohio licensing exams for both their academic content areas and for their professional knowledge.
Welker is a product of the Columbus Public Schools and received his B.A. in English, a B.S. in English Education, his M.A. and his Ph.D in Historical and Philosophical Foundations of Education all from The Ohio State University. He has been teaching at Wittenberg since 1987 and prior to that taught three years at Denison University. Welker and his wife reside in Columbus and have four grown children, one of whom is a senior at Wittenberg majoring in East Asian Studies.