May 28, 2015

BY TERI CAMPBELL
Logan Media Services

CARTERVILLE – Robert McKenzie, a chemistry instructor at John A. Logan College, was chosen the college’s "Outstanding Term (Part-Time) Faculty Member" for 2015. It was his first time receiving this award.

McKenzie said he was happy when he learned of the honor.

“It is a pleasure to work at John A. Logan,” McKenzie said. “The full-time faculty have always made me feel welcome. When I started working there, Mike Morgan was the (physical science) department chair and Don Rich was my mentor. They encouraged and allowed me to use my own teaching style in my classes. My colleagues have been nothing but supportive and I really appreciate that.”

Robert English, assistant professor of physical scienceand chair of the Physical Science Department at JALC, nominated McKenzie for the award.

“Robert has taught at Logan a long time, and he’s extremely reliable,” English said. “He teaches some pretty tough classes that students often struggle with and he helps them through them. Students always give him rave reviews on his evaluations, and I think they enjoy his classes and find him very approachable. He’s organized, knowledgeable, and has the personality skills needed in a successful instructor.”        

McKenzie graduated from Mt. Vernon Township High School and worked at Bonanza and General Tire and Rubber before joining the U.S. Navy where he served for six years. After being discharged from the navy, he attended Rend Lake College and earned an associate degree in criminal justice. He then went to Southern Illinois University and obtained a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in analytical chemistry.                               

“When I got my associate degree in criminal justice and my bachelor’s degree in chemistry, I was planning on going into forensics,” McKenzie said. “But when I got into graduate school and started working as a teacher’s assistant, I found something I liked better. I fell in love with teaching. It’s rewarding when I can help students learn. I can see it on their faces when they ‘get it.’

“I run a very interactive classroom,” he continued. “I want my students to be engaged, to ask questions, and give feedback. I like getting to know the students and learning from them too. I let them know I’m interested in their lives. The class isn’t all about the person up in the front of the room. The class is for them and I try to make learning fun.”

McKenzie has worked at JALC since 2002, teaching chemistry and other physical science classes. In addition to his classroom duties, he has mentored other part-time instructors and serves as the term faculty liaison for the Physical Science Department. He is also the executive at large in the Association of Term Faculty Union at Logan and a member of the collective bargaining team.

McKenzie said he hopes to one day teach full time at Logan.

“I want to help more students, and if I taught full time, I would reach more of them,” he said. “I feel like the country and the planet are in for some trying times in the future, and I want students to know about and understand science. I tell my students ‘chemistry is why everything is what it is. Physics is why everything does what it does, and math is the language they speak.’ There are interesting things that go on around them all the time, and if they understand science, they will understand why these things occur. I think that’s important.”

McKenzie and his wife, Dana, a retired academic advisor from SIUC, reside in Carterville.

“Dana is my greatest support system, and I really appreciate her,” McKenzie said. “I credit her with making me a better teacher.”  

    

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If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Dr. Steve O’Keefe at 618-985-2828 ext. 8569 or email at steveokeefe@jalc.edu.