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Teaching Excellence

February 25, 2010

Ellen Moreland always wanted to be a teacher.

Now, she is recognized as one of the best in the nation.

In November of 2009, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education named her the Texas Professor of the Year.  As a senior instructor in the ASU Mathematics Department, Moreland is fulfilling her ambition in a way that is bringing multiple honors to her and the university.  

“I am very pleased to have won for Angelo State because I think it is a way of getting our name out there,” Moreland said.  “I think there are far too many people who don’t realize what a great university this really is.  I’m very happy and proud to have received it, but I think anybody in this department could have gotten it.  We have a great department.”

And, the Carnegie Award is just the latest honor for Moreland, whose resumé includes a 2001 ASU Teaching Excellence Award and the inaugural Texas Tech University System Chancellor’s Council Distinguished Teaching Award for ASU in 2009.

The Long Island native, who grew up dreaming of being a teacher, took a rather circuitous route to achieve that dream.  After earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics from Clarkson College of Technology, Moreland spent the first phase of her adult life traveling with her military husband, Patrick.  Along the way, she worked as an actuary and in a law office, then finally got a taste of teaching when Patrick was stationed in Germany, where she went to work for branches of the University of Maryland and Boston University at various U.S. military bases.

“It was for Army soldiers and they are up and going early,” Moreland said.  “So, I might have a 6 a.m. class on one base in one direction, then get in the car and drive to a lunchtime class in a second city, and then have a dinnertime class in a third city.  So, I would go about 200 miles a day, but I loved it, loved the travel and had fun working with the soldiers.”

After Patrick retired from the Army in 1982, he landed a job with Ethicon Inc.  So, the couple headed to San Angelo and started a family.  In 1988, Moreland decided to go back to school to get her Texas high school teaching certification and resume her quest to become a full-time teacher.  Her timing turned out to be perfect.  When she showed up at ASU to register for classes, she ended up being hired as an instructor instead.

“That was the year the Developmental Math class opened and (then-department head) Dr. Johnny Bailey needed somebody to teach it,” Moreland said.  “Once I got here, I loved it.  I love the kids and I love the school.”

Over the years, Moreland has added other courses to her repertoire and now teaches everything from Developmental Math to Business Math to the capstone course for seniors in the secondary teacher certification program. Since she started teaching the capstone course, every student who has completed the program has passed the teacher certification test on the first try.  While she credits that success for her growing list of teaching awards, she thinks it also has a lot to do with her relationship with her students.

“If you come by my office in the morning, they are all over the place,” she said.  “They are sitting on the floor and we have to move everything off my desk to make room.  That is the big thing to me.  I teach for the kids.  I’m just not one who can turn a kid away.  If they want to learn, I am going to help them.”

Basically, Moreland just loves being a teacher and particularly being a teacher at ASU.  Patrick is retired now and the couple’s daughter, Kimberly, is a senior exercise science major at ASU.  With now more than 20 years on the Angelo State faculty, there is no place she would rather be.

“I love the kids and I love being surrounded by them” Moreland said.  “I love ASU and I think it is a wonderful school.  I think the kids get a great education here compared to a lot of the big colleges and I think we have some of the best teachers anywhere on this campus.”  
“As a kid, I used to play school all the time and I always had to be the teacher,” she added.  “Now that I have become a teacher again, I would never dream of leaving it.”