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My Portfolio > Article Archive > John O'Donnell recognized by chancellor

WISER Associate Director John O'Donnell recognized by University of Pittsburgh Chancellor
John O'Donnell recognized by chancellor

The chancellor recognized John O'Donnell of the School of Nursing for his contributions to the school and the nurse anesthesia program in particular.

"Your dedication to teaching is clear as you have sought new opportunities for teaching students at all levels - from baccalaureate students to Pitt faculty - and in your development of workshops using innovative technologies to teach regional, national and international educators at the School of Nursing's instructional series," Nordenberg wrote.

The chancellor further noted of O'Donnell, "your instruction is clear and concise and your passion for your subject is palpable. Your efforts do honor to the title of 'teacher.'"

O'Donnell told the University Times he was surprised but deeply honored to learn he had won the award. "I know how competitive this award is."

O'Donnell primarily teaches graduate nursing students studying anesthesia, as well as some undergraduate nursing students who are interested in a career in anesthesia. His classes range from six to 50 students.

"With small groups I typically attempt to use more interactive or immersive techniques, including use of human patient simulators. With the larger groups I also prefer interactive methods such as case studies, group discussions and interactive lectures. I like using audience response systems and whiteboards to leverage engagement," O'Donnell said.

Teaching techniques can be learned, practiced and developed, he said. "However, the ability to 'connect' with a class is a gift that I think you either have or you don't. My philosophy is to try to understand and value the learning needs of each individual student. In support of this philosophy, I attempt to stimulate reflection, interaction, immersive learning and a democratic classroom environment. I also think that educational activities have to be carefully scaffolded in support of student progression."

O'Donnell credits early role models for helping him make an easy transition from nursing training to teaching. "A big part of nursing is teaching - teaching patients, teaching other providers and teaching families," he said. "I always admired teachers who were spontaneous, interactive and clearly in total command of their material and have tried to emulate these traits in my own teaching."