Education professor gets award

Hannah Fermanich

A Northern Michigan University education professor receives recognition for her service to the Marquette community.

The Michigan Campus Compact (MCC) awarded Judy Puncochar with the 2012 Michigan Campus Compact Faculty/Staff Community Service-Learning Award. She received the award on Jan. 30 at a dinner in East Lansing.

“I am really glad that Northern has received recognition for this,” Puncochar said.

Employees at MCC campuses are given this award based on their great contributions to service learning in the last two years.

The criteria for choosing a candidate included having an instructor whose worked with students who have benefited the community, applied active learning principals taught in the courses by giving services to the community and allowed students to reflect on what they have learned through the process, Puncochar said.

“Many teachers [at NMU] deserve the award,” Puncochar said.

Puncochar created an introductory education course that gives students real experience in teaching. Students take concepts learned in class and directly apply them in the field. It allows them to figure out if teaching is really what they want to do for their career, Puncochar said.

“It’s a nice way for students to learn about themselves,” Puncochar said. “It’s critical to understand the nature of the field.”

With the education course, students are taught about how people learn, as well as how to best teach them. They then directly apply these principals to help the community.

Students involved in the class volunteer at the Lake Superior Village Youth and Family Center to help with an after-school homework program for K-12 kids in the area.

They sit down with students and help motivate them to do homework and also guide them through it. They also provide good role models for students, Puncochar said.

“My students are learning and the community is benefiting,” Puncochar said.

Students also spend time at the Bothwell Middle School, as well as spend a full day working in Harris, Mich. at the Hannahville Indian Community’s K-12 Nah Tah Wahsh Public School Academy.

The students involved with this course give back to the community, as well as apply all of the practices they are taught in the classroom directly, Puncochar said.

“It’s a win-win situation,” Puncochar said. “My students don’t always want to walk away at the end of the semester.”

Several students that have completed the course continue to volunteer their time at the Lake Superior center. Some students continue to volunteer the entire time they are at Northern, Puncochar said.

Puncochar is the Associate Professor of Education at Northern. She came to NMU in 2004 after working at the University of Minnesota for 16 years.

She earned her doctorate at University of Minnesota in 1996 and spent her time working there until 2004. She is now a part of NMU’s Academic Service Learning Advisory Board that promotes advancing academic service learning at NMU.

“I enjoy teaching the learning process,” Puncochar said. “Going into teaching is like a ticket for life-long learning.”

Growing up in Northern California, Puncochar was drawn to the similar feel of Marquette.

Once at NMU, she immediately got involved with the online learning programs, helping to expand options for graduate students wanting to earn different certificates.

Puncochar also spent her time creating the Uniting Neighbors in the Experience of Diversity Conference (UNITED) to help broaden the views of the NMU community.

The conference is held annually to celebrate diversity, culture and community. It brings speakers and performers from different ethnic backgrounds to NMU, according to the UNITED Conference website.
“Northern is always open to new ideas,” Puncochar said.