BY Gail Fagan
Becoming a professor allowed Dr. Amy Weimer to combine all her passions and fulfill her life goal of having an impact on the world in a positive way.
“I get to work with children, research ways to improve their lives and put that knowledge into practice,” said Weimer, associate professor in the Department of Psychological Science at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. “Teaching changes lives, and while it might sound cliché, it is true that teachers frame the future of each student we teach.”
Weimer has received one of the top awards in the nation to recognize teaching expertise – The University of Texas System Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award. She is one of four UTRGV faculty members who received the 2017 recognition, which provides a $25,000 monetary award. This year, 56 honorees from across UT System’s 14 academic and health institutions were honored.
“I am very humbled and honored,” Weimer said. “I love working with students, showing them psychology, opening the door to this field that I love and teaching them how they can be successful in it, too. To me, there’s nothing like that first time you make them feel that. When they succeed, I feel like I am succeeding.”
Weimer, who joined UT Pan American in 2006, also carries the titles of associate dean for Student Academic Development in the Office of Student Academic Success, and associate director for the Center for Bilingual Studies: Engaging Families, Learners and Communities.
COMMITMENT TO ENGAGED SCHOLARSHIP
The daughter of an early childhood teacher, Weimer says she cannot remember a time she wasn’t around children, learning by example that the use of effective practices could make a big difference in engaging students in the learning process, which leads to more successful outcomes for students.
She earned her bachelor’s in psychology from Northern Arizona University, her master’s in experimental psychology from Idaho State University, and a Ph.D. in developmental psychology from Arizona State University.
Always seeking to improve her usefulness as an instructor, Weimer said the design of her courses has become increasingly informed by the science of learning. Thus, she has incorporated more cooperative and collaborative learning.
“My courses are designed to encourage learners to actively participate in their own academic development,” said Weimer, who provides experiential and other applied learning opportunities.
Student service learning projects have included participation in bi-literacy and school-based programs with children, community-based health outreach on topics such as obesity and cognitive and behavioral development, and educational outreach events in the community, like “Brain Day” at a local museum.
An enthusiastic proponent of directed research, Weimer has her students design studies by working with children and schools in the community, learn to code and input the data collected, and prepare the results for publication and academic presentation at national conferences.
LEADING BY EXAMPLE
Clinical psychology graduate student Melissa Leon-Leal describes Weimer as a dedicated mentor and research enthusiast. She was able to share her research with Weimer at an international forum in China. Weimer inspired her pursuit of a graduate degree, Leon-Leal said.
“She thoroughly enjoys what she does and passes that enthusiasm to her students. As a result, her students view academic research as intriguing and exciting as opposed to intimidating,” said Leon-Leal, who worked for four years in Weimer’s Social Cognitive Development Lab and is now in a clinical internship at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance.
Arnoldo Amador, who worked in Weimer’s lab for three years, credits her for teaching him resilience and guiding him to improve his skills in academic writing and presentations.
“Dr. Weimer was very instrumental in my development because she took the time, not just for me, but for all her students in the lab, to lead by example,” said Amador, who received a master’s in experimental psychology in December 2016 and plans to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. “On her team, I got a firsthand view of how researchers and professionals are supposed to carry themselves.
“Sometimes, people come into your life and truly make a difference. There are people who invest in your well-being and revel in your success. That has been Dr. Weimer for me, and for many other students,” he said.
Weimer, a mother of two daughters who are frequent campus visitors, said taking on additional administrative roles has enabled her to facilitate learning for students much more broadly.
“As associate dean for Student Academic Development, I am able to help other instructors implement effective teaching practices into their courses across the university,” she said. “And I enjoy my role as associate director for bilingual studies because that is where my research and passion is, in terms of promoting advocacy in our community and really changing things for children in the Valley.”
Weimer said she intends to never stop learning and striving to become a more effective educator.
“It is my job to be creative and innovative to reach every student, and not compromise on my standards. I want to figure out ways that work for every one of them,” she said.
Since 2008, the Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Awards have recognized faculty members who deliver the highest quality of instruction in the classroom, laboratory, field and online.
The UT System Regents will award a total of $1.4 million to the ROTA winners at a ceremony Aug. 23 at the JW Marriott in downtown Austin.