Texas A&M University chemist Dr. Daniel Collins has been selected by McGraw Hill as one of four recipients of its second annual ALEKS All-Star Educator Awards, a national program to honor outstanding educators.
Launched in 2019 in celebration of the 20th anniversary of McGraw Hill’s ALEKS® (Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces) online tutoring and assessment solution, the program recognizes K-12 teachers and higher education instructors who have used ALEKS to achieve exceptional results, going above and beyond to help learners succeed.
Collins is one of two higher education honorees for 2020 along with Morteza Barshooi, who teaches mathematics at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, N.C. He and his fellow 2020 All-Star Educators, announced on January 28, will receive a $1,000 donation from McGraw Hill to an education-focused non-profit or charity of their choice, a $250 gift card and a collection of McGraw Hill books for their professional development.
“In a year characterized by an accelerated transition to digital learning, it has been incredibly inspiring to see the creative and impactful ways educators have used this software to unlock their students’ potential,” said Simon Allen, CEO of McGraw Hill. “These daring and imaginative instructors are brilliant examples of what educators are capable of. We are so glad to honor these all-stars who make such meaningful differences in the lives of those they teach.”
As a senior lecturer in the Texas A&M Department of Chemistry and member of its Organic and First Year Program, Collins uses ALEKS as a critical component of his own instruction while also helping other professors in academic departments across the Texas A&M campus implement ALEKS as part of their own arsenal of instructional tools. His students and colleagues all speak highly of his energy, passion, dedication and instructional skill — testimonials that are underscored by his previous recognition with a 2019 Honoring Excellence Award from the Texas A&M Department of Residence Life.
Texas A&M Chemistry initially adopted ALEKS in 2017 for students registering to take introductory courses in chemistry and chemistry for engineers. Collins was among a team of three First Year Program instructors who developed the supplemental video series and related online workbook, both of which are housed on Texas A&M’s eCampus and Canvas online learning management systems.
Collins joined the Texas A&M Chemistry faculty in 2015 as a lecturer after earning his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of South Carolina in 2012 and subsequent teaching stints at South Carolina (2012-2013) and Florida State University (2013-2015). His teaching specialties are introductory chemistry and organic chemistry. In addition to the ALEKS chemistry reinforcement model, he has helped to implement recitations aimed at improving the first-year experience for both science and non-science majors at Texas A&M. He also continues to develop short online videos on demand to help students with difficult course material or specific problem types.
“This award was an amazing surprise during these trying times, even for educators,” Collins said. “But ever since the beginning of the pandemic, the Department of Chemistry, the College of Science and Texas A&M University have given all of us the tools and technology to thrive amid the digital conversion, given the students all the flexibility and resources they can, and been understanding of all that the students and faculty are dealing with. I just did the best I could to give my students my all during these times and show them that, even on the bad days, we could get better and learn. I have been lucky to teach the students I have, and this award speaks volumes about their perseverance, drive and work ethic.”
Collins is an appointed member of the Aggie Honor Council, University Discipline and Academic Appeals Panels and College of Science Dean’s Faculty Advisory Committee as well as a past member of the Texas A&M Faculty Senate. He also has been instrumental in the implementation of the Hullabaloo U First Year Experience courses for both the university and his department. A strong advocate for science outreach, Collins serves as a judge for the Texas Junior Science and Humanities Symposium and Texas Junior Academy of Science. He also is a question reader and moderator for the Texas A&M Regional Junior Science Bowl, various National Science Bowl regionals and the Department of Energy National Science Bowl Competition. Additionally, he assists with the Chemistry Roadshow and has served since 2015 as the mole mascot for the annual Texas A&M Chemistry Open House.
“I am delighted to see Dr. Collins recognized for the tremendous leadership he has shown in adopting new tools to improve student success in our Chemistry First Year Program,” said Dr. Simon W. North, professor and head of Texas A&M Chemistry. “His innovative efforts are appreciated by his students, who have shared enthusiastic, unsolicited endorsements regarding the impact of his teaching and quality of his courses. He is a true asset to Texas A&M and our students.”
See a related Feb. 8 news segment from local NBC affiliate KAGS-TV.