In addition to the Faculty Excellence Award, the 2009 RLC Board-Faculty-Staff Dinner will feature awards for employees for years of service, as well as the Outstanding Staff Member Award presentation.
INA – Rend Lake College English Professor Rob Little has played a big role in educating local students for more than 20 years. He will be presented the 2009 RLC Faculty Excellence Award, Friday night, at the Board-Faculty-Staff Annual Dinner, at the Rend Lake Resort and Conference Center.
The large group at RLC that nominated him for the award stated, “As a colleague, Rob Little is innovative, supportive, and diligent. As a teacher, students find him challenging, encouraging, and personable. We believe he embodies all the qualities of an excellent faculty member and fully deserves recognition.”
“I’m excited and honored that they thought of me,” Little said. “I’m very pleased.”
Little, 44, of Centralia, graduated from RLC in 1984 with his associate of arts degree.
“It was ... a transition from small town to university and one that certainly worked for me,” he said of being a student at RLC. “It allowed me to grow into going to college and was something that made me successful later on.” His teachers at RLC, particularly those in liberal arts, were role models for his teaching career, he added.
He went on to earn his bachelor of arts degree from Southwest Baptist University and his master of arts from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Combining 16 years as a full-timer since 1993 and seven years as an adjunct, Little has been teaching at Rend Lake for more than two decades. New challenges and new students are what keep him going, he said.
“There’s a lot of diverse students. You see all types of students. That’s rewarding.”
The mission to help students realize their full potential is a constantly changing challenge, he said.
“I’ve been lucky because my job has changed. I had the opportunity to develop special topics classes when I was new. As people retired, I would move into a different class, or the challenge of HLC, or tech in the department. For one thing, I have always had a sort of changing role in the department and that keeps things fresh.”
He has proven to be a great asset outside, as well as inside, the classroom. Most recently, in preparation for an accreditation visit by the Higher Learning Commission, or HLC, last November, he championed a committee charged with evaluating every aspect of the college in order to create RLC’s 240-page self study document which was used in HLC’s study of RLC. Not only did the college receive the maximum 10 years of continued accreditation, more than one member of the HLC team found the document to have significant value as a model for their respective colleges.
“While the document was a team effort, anyone involved can attest to the fact that Rob was the one who was at the college on weekends, and until the wee hours of the morning, perfecting the manuscript,” his nomination letter reads. “He brought out the best in others with his tireless efforts, supportive feedback and vision. Indeed, the document was commended by the outside evaluators as extremely well done.”
“I think it’s pretty clear that I got the award because of the work I put into HLC,” he said. “And it was a lot of work. And I know that teaching has been rewarding and that has been a part of why I got this too. But really it was because of the amount of work.”
His classes in horror fiction, Japanese film and literature, and gender in film and fiction are as diverse as his teaching styles, which include team teaching, distance learning, on-line classes and hybrids. In fact, Little was the first to implement a film course at RLC and was an early proponent of distance learning teaching, for which he was awarded a certificate for technology innovation by the Southern Illinois Collegiate Common Market in 1997 and the Distance Learning Innovator Award that same year. Little even offers his lessons beyond the traditional schedule as a teacher of classes like how to use a Mac computer, Casablanca, and the life of Elvis Presley. He teaches these through RLC Community Education’s Institute for Lifelong Learning.
“Rob is an ‘idea guy,’” stated those who nominated him. “When there is a problem, he is innovative and persistent in solving it, even when it means a substantially increased workload for himself.”
He recently drove an overhaul of the writing curriculum to demand critical thinking and propelled the English department to a portfolio-based assessment of student writing progress. He has modernized file sharing and communication amongst full-time, part-time and dual credit instructors through a Microsoft SharePoint site he created. He designed a similar site to assist the self-study committee with its tasks. In addition to that committee, Little has served on committees for academic computing, institutional assessment, portfolio assessment, critical thinking, general education, cultural arts, international studies and currently serves as vice president of the RLC Academic Council, as well as chair of the College Mission Statement Committee and the Cultural Diversity Committee. He has sponsored both the Film and Gaming clubs on campus, and coordinated several film series and tournaments. Additionally, Little can be seen every year volunteering his time as the legendary auctioneer for the Students-for-Students Art Auction. He was a 2008 recipient of the RLC Art League’s Special Recognition Award.
Evidence of Little’s avant-garde nature can be found as far back as the 1980s when he was pushing the idea of using computer labs to teach writing.
“From those early classroom experiences, I’ve forged my own methodology which reflects and upholds the values of my predecessors,” he wrote in a document about his educational philosophy. “I strive to create an educational environment that challenges students to become self-aware and independent thinkers. Success, I am convinced, comes as a by-product of someone who has made a commitment to this process. ... At the early stage in my students’ college education, I know I am just planting the seeds of self-discovery and reflection, just as my teachers did for me those many years ago.”
“Rob’s teaching style is whimsical and refreshing,” wrote Andrea Snow, a sophomore from Benton. “His interests in current, popular media and art have shown to be very useful in the classroom. ... He has a very humorous, unique and wacky teaching style that effectively reaches all sorts of students – traditional and non-traditional, no matter the background.”
Little is big on students who contact him to say they learned something or enjoyed themselves in one of his classes.
‘That’s always the most rewarding – the relationships.”