New MSU Grisham Master Teacher encourages faculty to be ‘connoisseurs of education’

During her first formal presentation as the university’s newest John Grisham Master Teacher, Mississippi State Associate Professor Joanne E. Beriswill shared helpful teaching strategies for empowering students to gain independent critical thinking and learning skills. (Photo by Robert Lewis)

Contact: Sasha Steinberg

Mississippi State University Associate Professor Joanne E. Beriswill said the best teacher finds ways to motivate and engage students throughout the learning process.

An eight-year faculty member in the Department of Instructional Systems and Workforce Development, Beriswill told faculty members “we’re all teachers in different ways” during her Monday [Oct. 23] presentation in Mitchell Memorial Library as MSU’s newest John Grisham Master Teacher.

“As a constructivist teacher, you’re not the sage on the stage; you’re the guide on the side. You give raw information from different perspectives that your students can read, so they can come up and discover their own learning,” she said.

Throughout her lecture, Beriswill discussed specific instructional strategies that she has found helpful for lesson planning and student engagement.

“We get caught up in teaching about all of the small things and the facts, but the important thing is to teach students how to be pattern makers, so they can take information, manipulate it and make decisions based on where they see the pattern is headed,” she said.

Detailed descriptions, samples and walkthroughs are types of “scaffolding” that can help boost students’ confidence in their ability to learn new concepts and think independently, Beriswill said. Just as a building may need scaffolding to hold its walls up, students may need a little help while conducting a new task, she added.

“Going around the classroom and being a facilitator of what my students are doing helps them be independent,” Beriswill said. “I want them to be able to do things on their own in the workplace, so gradually removing that scaffolding is what I’m all about as a teacher.”

Beriswill graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s in Spanish from the University of South Florida, where she also earned a master’s in curriculum and instruction with emphasis in instructional technology. She also holds a master’s in instructional systems technology and a doctorate in instructional technology from Indiana University.

For four consecutive academic years, Beriswill has received a $90,000 No Child Left Behind Grant from the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning as co-principal investigator for the project “Integrating Global Academic Essentials: Common Core, 21st Century Skills and Technology.”

Outside of teaching, Beriswill has served in various professional leadership roles on campus. She currently serves as a member of the College of Education’s research, and recruitment and outreach committees, as well as chair of her department’s graduate recruitment committee.

Named in 1993 for the MSU alumnus and internationally recognized author, the John Grisham Master Teacher Award is bestowed on a highly select group recognized for excellence in classroom instruction. Each honoree agrees to serve as a role model and mentor for campus colleagues. 

In addition to this award, Beriswill has received such honors as Mississippi Educational Computing Association’s Educator of the Year and the Early Career Symposium Award.

Learn more about Beriswill and the Department of Instructional Systems and Workforce Development at Follow the department on Facebook @iswd.grad and Twitter @MSU_ISWD.

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