PSU Announces 2009 Distinguished Teachers

May 2nd, 2009 by Adam

Professors Gail Mears, Cynthia Vascak and adjunct Joe Mealey are the recipients of this year’s Distinguished Teaching Awards from Plymouth State University. Each year, PSU presents awards for excellence in teaching and service to the University community to one adjunct faculty, one graduate faculty and one undergraduate faculty member. Nominations for these honors are accepted from faculty and staff, as well as students and alumni.

2009 Distinguished Teachers
PSU’s 2009 Distinguished Teacher Award winners, from left, Gail Mears, Cynthia Vascak and Joe Mealey

“By making these awards, we honor both the teaching profession and the individuals who exemplify its finest qualities. At the same time, we reaffirm our belief that teaching is of central importance to our mission here at Plymouth State,” said Julie Bernier, PSU Provost.

Vascak, Professor of art education, chair of the Art Department, and coordinator of the Masters of Arts in art education program, teaches both graduate and undergraduate courses in art education, integrated arts, studio art, and curriculum and pedagogy. Dr. Vascak also serves on the Boards of VSA arts of New Hampshire, Friends of the Arts, and the Roots Cooperative Gallery. Vascak received the 2009 Distinguished Teaching Award for her dedication to teaching, and meaningful, student-centered education during her 18 years of service to the University.

“My teaching philosophy is grounded in hope and the belief that through education, we can contribute to the cultivation of peace, the alleviation of suffering and poverty and the envisionment of a better world,” Vascak said. “As an educator and an artist, I seek to inspire a sense of profound wonder and inquiry, and to pursue a lifelong quest for understanding with my students – for they, most certainly, give me a sense of mystery and wonder every day.”

Joe Mealey, an adjunct English professor and skills application teacher at PSU, was presented with the Distinguished Adjunct Teaching Award. Mealey earned his bachelor’s at Plymouth State and joined the faculty at Plymouth in 1996, teaching literature and general education courses. Joe previously served as the director of the English Department Writing Center. He has presented at the NCTE National Conference on tutor training and peer mentoring. Mealey said his goal is to make the free exchange of ideas central to teaching.

“I believe that education should be informative, explorative, and fun,” Mealey said. “My courses are designed to address the need students have to enjoy learning as well as develop their academic skills. I try to foster an atmosphere where students can feel free to explore, take risks, and succeed.”

Gail Mears, chair of the Counselor Education and School Psychology programs at Plymouth State University has over 30 years experience in the mental health field. She has experience in community mental health, family services, private practice, and college counseling. As an active member of professional organizations, she is a past president of the American Mental Health Counselors Association, the New Hampshire Mental Health Counselors Association and the Northern New England Association for Counselor Education and Supervision. Mears is known for her dedication to counseling education and community service in the Plymouth region. Dr. Mears currently provides counseling services to university students through the Plymouth State University Counseling and Human Relations Center.

“A classroom is always its own community, and so to get paid to be in connection with such amazing students is just wonderful,” Mears said. “My colleagues are gifted and the administration is supportive. If you have a vision here and you can dream it and justify it, and figure out a way to reasonably implement it, you’re given support to do those things; that, to me, is so professionally gratifying.”

Gail Mears was honored at the Graduate Commencement exercises May 9. Vascak and Mealey are being honored at the Undergraduate Commencement ceremony May 16.

For more information about this release, contact Bruce Lyndes, PSU Media Relations Mgr., (603) 535-2775 or