August 28, 2019 National teaching award for lifelong science advocate
Richland, WA – “I’ve always wanted to talk about things I find cool.”
Since his first taste of teaching younger kids while in high school, Allan Felsot has loved passing along science knowledge and information. And the WSU entomology professor’s love of science shines through decades later.
“Being excited about something and wanting to talk about it is great motivation for a teacher,” said Felsot, who is also the academic director for the math and science sector of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) at WSU Tri-Cities. “If I can pass along my excitement to students, that’s a huge win.”
He’s obviously doing something right, as Felsot, 68, will receive the Distinguished Achievement Award in Teaching from the Entomological Society of America, basically national teacher of the year, at the society’s national conference in November.
“I’m surprised and flattered, being honored by colleagues and friends who have supported me in my career,” said Felsot, who has been at WSU for 26 years.
“Allan is an inspirational teacher,” said Laura Lavine, chair of WSU’s entomology department. “His tireless efforts are impacting so many people. He’s been making science interesting and relevant for several generations of college students.”
Wide range of interests
In addition to teaching entomology, Felsot teaches courses in an array of topics in both CAHNRS and CAS. From integrated pest management to environmental toxicology to biotechnology and the environment, his topics vary but he always grounds them in helping students beyond topical knowledge.
“I help them understand various view points, to look at the perspectives of environmental groups and industry,” Felsot said. “Teaching critical thinking skills, and how they can make people better citizens, is vital to providing a useful education.”
Beyond the classroom
In addition to his teaching and administrative roles, Felsot still holds a partial Extension appointment. In that role he teaches training programs in pesticide management to people working in agriculture around Washington.
“It’s not that different, teaching WSU students or people who apply pesticides,” Felsot said. “I’ve just learned how to adjust how I talk to different groups, but still communicate clearly the best science available.”
The native of Miami Beach, Florida doesn’t plan to retire any time soon, either. He said he’s having too much fun.
“Being at a university keeps me young,” he said. “I thrive being around students. I’m a teacher of skeptical inquiry, so helping these young people learn to ask tough questions and search for truth is invigorating.”