Schoenherr Named 2023 Innovative Educator

Published: October 26, 2023

Congratulations to College of Western Idaho (CWI) Professor of Psychology, Heather Schoenherr, who was awarded a GEM Award for Social and Behavioral Ways of Knowing by the Idaho State Board of Education and CapEd Credit Union!

Schoenherr began her CWI journey in Fall 2008 as one of the founding faculty members at the College, where she was able to help other faculty and staff, set up classrooms, and create the culture for CWI when the College opened its doors to students for Spring 2009 semester.

For the last 15 years, Schoenherr has been able to teach students on either end of their CWI journey — those about to graduate in the Social Sciences Capstone course (SOC 290) and those who are in their first semester at the College enrolled in Introduction to Psychology (PSYC 101).

Schoenherr believes the best way to prepare students to become lifelong learners is to help give them insight into themselves and how they process information. To do this, she emphasizes three themes when teaching: challenges, connections, and processes.

First, she stresses that growth comes from challenges. She immediately dispels the myth that if you are struggling, you do not belong. Because of the many different students and backgrounds she works with, she believes it is important to recognize that feeling challenged does not mean you are in the wrong place, instead, you are where you need to be to grow.

“This sets the tone to embrace vulnerability and remove shame surrounding perceived shortcomings in learning,” said Schoenherr. “My focus is always to equip students with an effective knowledge base that allows them to succeed at the content level and promotes an intentional mental framework about themselves as students and professionals.”

Schoenherr has students create connections with others to achieve a connection with the material. In class, students work together in groups to collaborate and evaluate information successfully through her lectures and skill development work.

Lastly, Schoenherr demonstrates the value of falling in love with the process versus the product. She believes this pushes a student to embrace growth and to be purposeful with the skills they are developing. She encourages students to look at failure as a learning opportunity and not a defining character moment.

Through Schoenherr’s guidance, students can achieve more than they imagined possible.

“Heather was an amazing teacher," said one of Schoenherr’s former students. “She was very attentive to her students and grades were always available in a timely manner. For an online class, I was impressed with how present she was. Any question I asked was answered on the same day, and she was supportive and informational. I would recommend Heather to any student. Loved this class.”

Schoenherr has a passion to teach. The profession has allowed her to facilitate connections which then empowers students to strengthen who they are as individuals and as members of society. Being at CWI, she is able to support the mission of a community college to create access to education for all!

“I am privileged to work alongside talented faculty and dedicated students who inspire me to be a better educator,” said Schoenherr. “This award represents my passion for facilitating students’ understanding of human behavior and experiences to serve them in their education, personal life, and careers.

Schoenherr and five other higher education faculty members across the state were recognized earlier this month for their efforts to improve student success in general education courses at Idaho’s public higher education institutions at the General Education Summit in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, held Oct. 12 – 13. The award winners were invited to give a presentation to Summit attendees describing practices they use in the classroom that benefit students.

“I was excited that most of the recipients talked about how they used open educational resources (OER) to help students access materials free of charge to improve learning,” said Dr. TJ Bliss the State Board of Education’s Chief Academic Officer. “The State has invested over $1 million so far to promote increased access and affordability for students through innovations like OER.”

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