Dr. Tom Dow’s classroom mantra is, “Whatever it takes,” meaning he will do anything and everything to engage his students in the class. That teaching philosophy, coupled with creative assignments and an interactive approach, have earned him the 2018 Professor of the Year Award.

Dow’s teachings are full of energy, open-mindedness and compassion, and he expects a judgement-free zone. He inspires his students to believe they can succeed. He encourages discussions of difficult topics and leads students to think, work together and produce creative works that help them understand the literature in a deeper way. He is always on the lookout to make the literature he teaches come to life for his students.

As a result, Dow, Professor of Communications/English and Department Chair of Communications/Literature/Languages, gets creative on classroom projects and final exams to push his students to use critical thinking skills and concise writing. He incorporates Haiku in COM-101 classes, where his students must capture their growth as a writer in as few words as possible. He makes Shakespeare interesting through video projects and trips to professional theater productions of the Bard’s plays. For the final exam in his Shakespeare course, students must sum up the works they read in a tweet. He says this exercise takes serious thought because they have to make every word count.

He has “greened” his curriculum, asking students to examine different segments of Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” from the lens of ecocriticism. He also co-created a student showcase, Literature Meets Art, in which students exhibited their unconventional responses to literary texts, including original songs written and performed live, pastel drawings, mobiles, digital art, movie posters, journals, collages, and more.

“Dr. Dow is not only enthusiastic but committed to his teaching as well as his students. I can tell he always enjoys coming to class and makes it enjoyable for everyone. When a teacher’s energy is shown through their enjoyment of teaching the material in the class, it makes the students enjoy it,” said one of Dow’s nominators.

Some of Dow’s greatest accomplishments at Moraine Valley have occurred outside the classroom. He, along with three colleagues and a large team, developed last year’s Innovation of the Year Award-winning COM-101 Bridge Program, which helps developmental education students move into COM-101 classes more quickly. Dow also created the concept and led the team behind Community Learning Day, which offered service to the community while educating employees about the needs, challenges, landscape, and many other topics in the community. Dow has been a co-chair of the Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP) Systems Portfolio team since 2006. He has led the effort in writing and revising the Systems Portfolio each year Moraine Valley has been up for reaccreditation.

Dow has impacted the Communications department by writing a communications textbook with three faculty colleagues, creating online literature courses, leading the revision of COM-101 and -102 courses, and developing curriculum for Arabic classes and the American Sign Language program. And he impacts community colleges around the state as a member of the Illinois Community College Board Developmental Education Advisory Board (2015-present) and the Illinois Articulation Initiative Communications Panel (2017-present).

His work and opinions are highly-valued at the college as he is consistently asked to participate in major college initiatives, has won three Innovation of the Year Awards and was named Master Teacher in 2014. “I’m very honored by this award, especially since I was nominated by a peer and a student. I’ve also been very touched by all of the kind words my colleagues have shared with me during this process,” Dow said.