PITTSBURG, Ks. — From the time Laura Covert-Miller became a faculty member in the Health, Human Performance, and Recreation Department at Pittsburg State University (PSU), she’s been driven by the desire to think outside the box and provide experiential learning for her students.
It’s why she created TR-iffic Field Days for special needs populations, in which her Therapeutic Recreation students learn by doing while at the same time give back to the community.
It’s also why she takes them to retirement communities and partners with local Parks & Recreation personnel for community-based surveys.
This semester, she’s faced an adjustment in the face of moving such teaching online during a global pandemic. So have her students. But her positive attitude at this time is indicative of her teaching style all of the time.
“Great teachers understand the power of education in the life of a student and will do everything they can to harness that power. Laura exemplifies this on a daily basis.”James Truelove, Dean of the College of Education
That attitude is one of several reasons she’s been chosen for the College of Education’s Excellence in Teaching Award, an annual award given to faculty in each of the university’s four colleges and funded by the PSU Foundation.
Covert-Miller earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Northwest Missouri State, and knew then that she wanted to teach at the university level. But first, she wanted experience.
“I thought that was vital in order to teach students what they’ll be doing in the field,” she said.
She worked with older adults at an Omaha, Nebraska, wellness center, and with special populations, for four years. She worked in retirement communities. And, she was a personal trainer and group exercise leader for a physical therapy company.
While in the last stage of earning her PhD from the University of Nebraska Omaha, she was offered a job at Pittsburg State.
Here, she met her husband, who teaches in the Mechanical Engineering Technology program, and she honed her two teaching philosophies. The first: learn by doing.
“Learn by doing — that’s PSU’s motto, and definitely my motto. I wanted our students, once they graduated from our program, to have enough experience to put them at the top of the field. I wanted their potential employers to see they already have experience with various populations in the recreation process to put them above other applicants.”Laura Covert-Miller, Excellence in Teaching Award Winner
The second: getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.
“They’ll be working with populations in which they have little experience,” she said. “It is our responsibility to make all of our clients/participants/residents/consumers comfortable around us in order to successfully do our jobs. We need to be able to adapt to any situation and keep our clients engaged. If we can achieve that, the rest will be easy.”
When students implement interventions with community members, when both their knowledge and confidence increase, when they’ve passed the CTRS exam, or when they come back to be guest speakers in classes, she feels a sense of accomplishment.
“It’s all about the students – that’s why I do what I do,” she said. “I care about them dearly and want to see them succeed.”