Alumna earns outstanding teacher award at Allegany College of Maryland

Allegany College of Maryland named Sharon Yoder its top teacher for 2017. Yoder, associate professor of English, was presented the Sanner Award for Outstanding Teaching. Also pictured are Dr. Kurt Hoffman, senior vice president for instructional and student affairs, and Dr. Cynthia S. Bambara, ACM president. (Courtesy photo)

Sharon Yoder, associate professor of English, has been recognized as Allegany College of Maryland’s outstanding faculty member for 2017. She is a 1975 graduate of Eastern Mennonite University.

Yoder received the Sanner Award for Outstanding Teaching, which is based on teaching excellence, guidance to advisees in pursuit of their goals and demonstrated human relationship skills.

Faculty members submit nominations for the college-wide award and selection is made by the Faculty Status Committee, a peer group that represents ACM’s more than 100 full-time faculty members.

Yoder, who joined the full-time faculty in 2011 after a half-dozen years of part-time teaching, has earned a reputation for a commitment to education that greatly benefits students in her developmental and freshman English classes.

She wins praise for the engaging atmosphere she creates in the classroom, the encouragement she provides to students and the effort she makes to help them improve their writing skills.

Yoder’s approachable manner and positive outlook resonates with students, who soon realize that she has their best interests at heart.

“Students report that she is greatly concerned with their learning,” says a colleague. “They know that she is devoted to their development as writers.”

Moreover, her fellow professor notes, Yoder’s instructional methods guide students toward greater self-awareness.

“[She] designs a course that urges students to reflect deeply about themselves and their place in the community,” the colleague wrote.

Yoder, who has taught in grades K-12 and at the four-year college level, has found her niche at ACM and is committed to the community college mission.

“We’re in touch with what is happening,” she says. “Our hands are in the earth. We’re working with students from the ground up.”

A believer in the adage that “writing is thinking,” Yoder has students explore subjects of personal interest as she works with them to develop their writing skills. As they consult sources and explain what they have learned, students make discoveries about themselves and their future goals.

“I want to make students’ assignments worthwhile,” Yoder said. “I feel that we have so many resources here to help students make informed decisions.”

Yoder frequently has students review the work of classmates in an exercise of collaborative learning.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for them to learn from each other … for them to experience the diverse college that we actually are,” she said.

In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Yoder has administrative duties as co-chair of the college’s Humanities Division.

She is the contact person for the large number of current and prospective part-time adjunct faculty members who teach English and other subjects within the division. That includes instructors who teach in ACM’s Early College program, the bulk of whom teach in high schools that host college-level courses taken by juniors and seniors. The effort is an extensive one and the necessary classroom visits with a new teacher take Yoder far from campus in ACM’s multi-county service region.

“It’s always a pleasure traveling to these schools,” says Yoder, who adds that she finds “the countryside picturesque, the teachers dedicated and the students eager to learn.”

She is also part of the college’s Teaching and Learning Community, an interdisciplinary group of faculty members working to foster a learner-centered culture in ACM classrooms.

A natural teacher, Yoder knew since she was a young girl that she wanted a career in education.

After graduating from Northern Garrett High School, Yoder earned a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va., and taught in northern Manitoba, Garrett County and Virginia.

Yoder found a special calling in ESOL, teaching English to speakers of other languages.

“It’s such a privilege to work with them,” she said. “I help them to discover how to analyze situations and solve problems on their own.”

After a return to her native Grantsville to assist her parents, Yoder completed a master’s degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from Shenandoah University.

She began teaching ESOL classes at ACM and later juggled her time between ESOL and English classes at both ACM and at Frostburg State University.

Since joining ACM’s full-time faculty in 2011 Yoder has taken additional graduate studies in both composition and TESOL at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

As the colleague who nominated Yoder for the outstanding teaching award noted: “Every decision in Sharon’s professional development is based on the question, ‘How will this serve my students?’ ”

Her personal interests include growing backyard berries, writing poetry and enjoying family time. She is a member of a recently formed task force exploring possibilities for resettling refugees in the Cumberland area.

Yoder is the 31st recipient of the Sanner Award. It was established by Miriam Sanner, a former ACM Board of Trustees chair and ACM Foundation board member emerita.