Submitted by Collin College
A young college student dreaded physics homework. One problem would lead to hours of frustration. In desperation, she made an appointment at the new math tutoring center and a graduate student literally taught her how to take the fear out of physics.
“She would get that look of ‘I am a little bit afraid of what you just said,’ and I would always say, ‘Don’t despair. We can finish this problem.’ By the end of the first semester, she would stop and sigh and get that same look, and she would say aloud, ‘Don’t despair,’ and I would say, ‘That is right,’” laughed Collin College physics professor Dr. Greg Sherman, who was a graduate student at the time.
Little did the young student know that the tutor who traversed the tumultuous sea of physics with her would one day become the 2012 Texas Professor of the Year because of his gift for teaching.
Dr. Sherman made Collin College history in November when the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) named him the number one college or university professor in the state of Texas.
According to Mac Hendricks, chair of the Collin College Board of Trustees, this impressive honor is well deserved. “We applaud Dr. Sherman’s momentous achievement,” he said. “Dr. Sherman is a dedicated professor and an asset to the college and the community.”
The Professor of the Year program, now in its 32nd year, is the only national initiative that focuses solely on excellent undergraduate teaching and mentoring. The highly-coveted award is considered the pinnacle of collegiate teaching, and Dr. Sherman accepted the award at a Washington D.C. ceremony at the National Press Club followed by a Congressional reception at the Folger Shakespeare Library on Capitol Hill.
According to Collin College District President Cary A. Israel, Dr. Sherman’s win is historic because it marks the fifth Professor of the Year at Collin College, surpassing the state record previously held by Rice University and Texas Christian University with four faculty honorees each. The University of Texas at Austin has three.
“Dr. Sherman’s achievement is a testament to the cadre of outstanding professors teaching at Collin College, and it adds to our legacy of academic excellence. With three U.S. Professors of the Year and two Texas Professors of the Year, Collin College is the only college or university in the state with five winners,” Israel said.
Like Dr. Sherman, Collin College psychology professor Jennifer O’Loughlin Brooks was Texas Professor of the Year in 2006. In 2009, Dr. Tracey McKenzie, professor of sociology, won U.S. Professor of the Year as did developmental mathematics professor Dr. Rosemary Karr in 2007 and theater professor Brad Baker in 2000.
“We are very proud of Dr. Sherman,” Israel continued. “His dedication and hard work have led students to amazing discoveries in the classroom, in the laboratory and even in outer space. Dr. Sherman’s research students competed against peers from around the world and discovered an asteroid!”
Dr. Sherman and Dr. Mike Broyles led an undergraduate research project at Collin College through NASA that led to the discovery of a main belt asteroid between Mars and Jupiter. The students—Adrian Boysselle, David Golynskiy and Deepak Joseph—received NASA research awards for discovering the asteroid and are officially listed as co-discoverers at the Minor Planet Center located at Harvard University.
Dr. Sherman’s research through the college’s Center for the Advanced Studies in Mathematics and Natural Sciences has ranged from asteroid detection to variable star photometry at McDonald Observatory. He has taught nearly every physics class offered at the college, including General Physics, University Physics, The Solar System Stars and Galaxies and the Physics of Music and Sound. In addition, he taught Engineering Mechanics I and co-taught the Learning Community astrobiology course “Life in the Universe.” To help reduce textbook costs, Dr. Sherman developed lab manuals for two physics courses and co-developed manuals for four additional courses. Today, students can download these lab manuals for free.
Outside of the classroom, he has been involved with the Texas Community College Aerospace Scholars, a NASA program for Texas community college students. He and his students had the opportunity to interact with scientists and engineers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. He serves as a secondary advisor for the Collin Robotics Club and enjoys watching the wonder in community members’ eyes as they gaze through telescopes at the college’s Star Parties. According to Dr. Sherman the fact that this award exists demonstrates that teaching and professors have value.
“It is nice to have affirmation that I am moving in the right direction and doing some good for my students. This is an award for the whole faculty because I am surrounded by so many wonderful professors at this outstanding college.”
Dr. Sherman will have an award to hang on his wall, but he takes the greatest pride in the accomplishments of his students, like David Golynskiy, who was afraid of physics and avoided it in high school. However, with Dr. Sherman’s help, Golynskiy mastered calculus-based physics, discovered an asteroid with classmates, gave a presentation at a national physics conference and is currently pursuing a degree in biology and criminology at the University of Texas at Dallas.
“I knew I was in for a ride, but what I didn’t know was that Dr. Sherman is one of the most passionate and enthusiastic professors from which I would have the honor to learn. I earned A’s in both semesters with Dr. Sherman, and I feel like I have a solid understanding of physics, which is important for my future in the health care field. If I have to pick one thing I learned from Dr. Sherman it would be don’t be afraid and challenge yourself! The only thing stopping you is yourself, so go out there and take a chance.”
There is no doubt that Dr. Sherman’s students are heeding his advice. With this 2012 Texas Professor of the Year the sky is the beginning, not the limit.
Pictured at top, From left to right: Collin College District President Cary A. Israel, 2012 Texas Professor of the Year Dr. Greg Sherman and Collin College Board of Trustees Chair Mac Hendrick.