GGC’s Pennington wins USG Board of Regents’ Teaching Excellence Award

Third GGC professor to receive this prestigious award since 2007

Dr. Richard Pennington, associate professor of chemistry at Georgia Gwinnett College, has been selected to receive the 2013 University System of Georgia (USG) Board of Regents’ Teaching Excellence Award.

“We are so proud of Dr. Pennington,” said Dr. Lois C. Richardson, acting senior vice president for Academic and Student Affairs and provost. “He is an outstanding representative of GGC’s dedicated faculty. We are particularly excited that he is our third recipient of this award in only six years.”

Created in 1996, the Regents’ Awards program recognizes the finest among the USG faculty who significantly improve student success and demonstrate innovative teaching techniques and programs. 

“Winning teaching awards is truly a career milestone,” Pennington said. “This award validates my career choice and makes me realize that I am very lucky to do what I really enjoy doing.”

Teaching college chemistry, and receiving such a prestigious distinction, would not have been predicted for this native of Manchester, England. In fact, Pennington said he was considered a below-average chemistry student by his high school chemistry teacher.

“At that time my self-confidence was not high so this was a real blow,” Pennington said. “But with help from a tutor, I managed to take my chemistry grade from an F to a B and learned then how much a student could be affected by a teacher.”

A charter GGC chemistry faculty member, Pennington came to the U.S. in 1996 and has since earned his Ph.D. in organic chemistry, been lead or co-author on a book chapter and numerous academic journal publications, presented at more than a dozen regional and national conferences, received two teaching awards and the national Blackboard Catalyst Award for Innovative Use of Mobile Technology for an organic chemistry project.

Pennington’s educational philosophy is that any student can succeed provided they are given the resources and tools to do so. His personal style is not to lecture, preferring instead a dynamic classroom environment that engages students in active learning.

“For some students, that's initially a tough transition, but in most cases students come around and appreciate what I am trying to do,” he said.

GGC students made initial nominations for the award, and Pennington’s students described him as structured, engaging and innovative. For example, since 2009, in addition to his regular teaching duties, he’s created almost 200 preparatory videos for his six chemistry courses. They are available to any GGC student, anytime. To date, records show the videos have been accessed more than 15,000 times, which Pennington finds rewarding and a tribute to their usefulness.

In addition, he’s received 25 “Thank A Teacher” notes through the college’s Center for Teaching Excellence. This program gives students the opportunity to thank professors who have made a difference for them.

“Receiving each one makes my day,” Pennington said.

Outside of GGC, the Dacula resident enjoys spending time with his wife and two children. He plays soccer and tennis and recently began learning karate. 

He will be recognized at GGC’s convocation on Sept. 19 and again in the spring during the USG Foundation’s annual Regents’ Salute to Education awards dinner.

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