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‘Silent Hero’ — Claflin’s Dr. Angela Peters honored as top professor at state universities
S.C. Commission on Higher Education Chairman Layton McCurdy, far left, and Executive Director Conrad Festa, far right, present the 2005 Governor’s Professor of the Year Award to Claflin University’s Dr. Angela Peters, center, at the Statehouse Thursday morning. Peters represents South Carolina’s four-year institutions. Christine Crosby, not pictured, represents the state’s two-year institutions. Pictured from left are McCurdy, Stephen Peters and his wife and recipient Angela, Claflin University President Henry Tisdale and Festa. VAN HOPE/T&D

COLUMBIA — Claflin University’s Dr. Angela Peters has a passion for chemistry and a devotion to teaching it. Her dedication was recognized Thursday when she was named the 2005 Governor’s Professor of the Year for four-year colleges and universities. In a ceremony at the South Carolina State House on Thursday, Peters was awarded a plaque and a $5,000 check for her efforts in teaching, advising and mentoring students. Peters, an Orangeburg native, said she has always wanted to teach, having grown up in a household where both parents were educators. “I was brought up by teachers, wonderful teachers, and I live with a wonderful teacher,” she said. Peters’ mother, Roberta Waymer, is a music teacher, guidance counselor and assistant principal at Bamberg-Ehrhardt Elementary School. Her father, Dr. William Waymer, began as a K-12 educator before joining South Carolina State University as an administrator. He is retired.

Peters received her undergraduate and graduate degrees in chemistry from Hampton University in Hampton, Va., before pursuing her doctorate in biochemistry at the University of South Carolina.

She has been a member of the Claflin University family since 2000 and currently serves as an associate professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry. She teaches advanced and introductory courses in biochemistry, senior seminar, honors seminar and laboratories and is the grants writer and principal investigator for three federal grants.

“Claflin is such a great school,” Peters said. “It just gives you the opportunity to grow and learn. I’m just surrounded by wonderful teachers.”

She received the award given to professors at four-year institutions. This year’s two-year Governor’s Professor of the Year is Christine Crosby of York Technical College. Crosby has been at the college for 27 years and currently serves as a business administration instructor and academic advisor.

“Today we are here to recognize silent heroes, who daily give up their time and their talent and their gifts, to make our state and our citizens strong and competitive,” said Rita Allison, director of communications for the S.C. Commission on Higher Education and Gov. Mark Sanford’s education advisor.

“Education will continue to play an instrumental role in South Carolina’s economic prosperity. Future economic growth and individual opportunity will rest, in part, on the educational opportunities and the dedicated people who deliver them with great care every day,” she said.

Dr. Henry Tisdale, president of Claflin University, said the school is very pleased to have Peters represent the university as one of the state’s professors of the year and delighted to have two educators from the school receive that distinction in a decade. Dr. Shingara S. Sandhu, a chemistry professor at Claflin, received the honor in 1996.

“I believe that Dr. Peters personifies the vision of teaching excellence that we have at Claflin University,” Tisdale said. “Of course she is well-credentialed. She is warm, inviting. She makes a difference with her students and we’re also pleased that she integrates research into her teaching, which really makes her students very competitive when they leave Claflin University.”

Peters attributes her success as a teacher to a three-step process: “You have to capture them (students) first, inspire them and then teach them.” It is a model she said her husband, author and motivational speaker Stephen Peters, touts when he addresses fellow educators.

“I believe all students can learn — it’s up to the teachers to determine how best they learn,” she said. “We have to form a teacher-student relationship first. We have to motivate the students through learning, and then the teaching part is inevitable.”

In all her classes at Claflin, Peters uses a group collaborative learning model — peer-led instruction.

“I use this group model as a part of my teaching, and it has helped lower failure rates and increased student performance in my classes and on standardized tests,” she said.

In addition to working with her undergrad and graduate students at the university, Peters lends time to helping foster a love of science and math in younger students.

“We have an award-winning student affiliate chapter of the American Chemical Society,” she said. “We have a huge outreach component. It’s all about outreach to K through 12.”

The program is relatively new. It was started in 2001 with six students and has since expanded to 70 members, all working at Claflin toward science or math degrees.

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The society’s members travel to area schools and perform scientific demonstrations, recruit students to the science and math-based fields and raise general scientific awareness. Members also judge area science fairs.

This is the 19th year of the Governor’s Professor of the Year program, which was started by the General Assembly in 1988. Each private and public higher education institution in the state of South Carolina is allowed to nominate one faculty member who demonstrates excellence in teaching.

A 10-member committee is charged with naming the professors of the year. The committee members’ common ground is they all are in tune with and have a good understanding of the higher education system, according to Dr. Lynn Kelley, assistant director of academic affairs and licensing with the S.C. Commission on Higher Education.

Reviewing the teacher of the year applications, “You learn so much about the humanity of people and the ways they make an impact on these young people,” he said.

Dr. Layton McCurdy, chairman of the SCCHE, said the competition focuses the state’s attention on the tremendous skill and creativity that professors statewide bring to classrooms each day.

“The commitment of these two and other faculty members throughout our state make our state a qualitatively better place to live,” he said. “Committed teachers change lives forever.”

Since the beginning of the program, three professors of the year have hailed from Orangeburg universities — Peters, Sandhu and Dr. Ashok K. Kabi Satpathy, a chemistry professor at South Carolina State University who won the award in 2000.

Peters was also the recipient of the 2004 National Millennium Award for Teaching Excellence at a Historically Black College or University.

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