Hoosier educator of the year demonstrates effective teaching techniques at The Woods

April 3rd, 2012 | SMWC

Robert J. Gustas

Forget the endless lectures, dusty chalk and mountains of worksheets. For math teacher Robert J. Gustas, teaching is all about engaging your students, activating their minds and connecting their world to the classroom.

On March 30, 2012, Gustas, the 2010 Hoosier Educator of the Year, shared his passion for teaching with more than 40 students, faculty and staff at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC). “He is very passionate about his job as a teacher,” said SMWC student Elizabeth Hettinger, a junior majoring in elementary education with a math minor from Terre Haute, Ind. “Hearing professionals like Gustas speak is important because he offers students the real life, ‘in the trenches,’ view of the world of education.”  

Gustas currently teaches eighth grade math and advanced algebra at Clark Middle School in Saint John, Ind. He sponsors the school’s student council, National Junior Honor Society and boys’ cross-country and track teams. In 2011 the Polish American Congress named him Distinguished Educator of the Year. “His presentation exemplified teaching excellence,” said Susan Gresham, director of SMWC’s career development center, which co-sponsored the event with the College’s Future Teachers of America club. “When our students hear an award-winning teacher speak, I hope they aspire higher.”

Gustas energized the crowd with group activities.

Gustas spoke for an hour in the College’s Le Fer Hall ballroom, explaining his methods by using his award-winning teaching techniques. He kicked off the session with a group activity that focused everyone’s attention, a precious tool in an unruly classroom. “He was engaging, humorous and insightful,” Gresham said. “He walked around the room and made eye contact with each individual.”

Gustas shared many of his effective teaching strategies, including how to connect with students and guide them, not force them, through the learning process. He stressed the importance of student accountability and utilizing technology in the classroom. “To me,” Gresham said, “he is the kind of teacher students dream of, and parents respect and appreciate.”

Learn more about earning a degree in education at SMWC by visiting the Department of Education's website.  To see more photos of Gustas’s presentation, visit our Flickr photostream.

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