MISSOULA - One of the most popular educators at the University of Montana has been named 2008 Montana Professor of the Year by two national organizations.
Chemistry professor Garon Smith received the award from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Both promote excellence in teaching.
The award was presented to Smith and recipients from other states Nov. 20 at a luncheon and congressional ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Smith is known to many on campus and throughout Montana as G. Wiz. He dons a purple wizard's cape and robe to capture students' attention, and he regales and instructs students in his introductory Chemistry 151 course with fiery tricks and humorous incantations.
"Students volunteer testimonials about the quality and contagion of his teachings," UM President George Dennison wrote in nominating Smith for the award. "His teaching abilities, in a word, strike me as magical."
Smith's faculty colleagues confirm that students leave his course with a solid understanding of chemistry and well-prepared for advanced work, Dennison said.
When not teaching classes at UM, Smith tours elementary and high schools around the state, teaching short lessons as G. Wiz to get young people interested in science.
Often, he does this on his own time and at his own expense, simply because he loves opening young minds to science.
He also participates in UM-organized outreach tours throughout Montana to help recruit new students to the university.