If Peter Placas, Biology Instructor and Cross-Disciplinary Lab Technician, is seen walking down the halls of the science building with pool noodles, buckets of plastic balls or laundry bins, it’s not because he’s setting up an obstacle course for a gym class, but instead helping his students understand tough concepts. For his teaching ways, he earned the Adjunct Professor of the Year Award.

“I am absolutely honored and humbled that I was chosen for this award, especially considering how many absolutely tremendous adjunct faculty teach at this
campus. It was incredibly thrilling just to be nominated,” he said.

Since 2011, Placas has taught a variety of anatomy and physiology classes as well as some general biology. He gauges his student audience and tailors his teaching style accordingly. Using props for demonstrations or games is not uncommon in his classes to actively engage students. He attempts to appeal to their different learning styles and modalities. Within one or two class periods, he finds that most students feel comfortable talking to him and asking questions when they’re lost or confused on difficult subject matter.

“These props and activities help students solidify concepts by giving them concrete memories of what was discussed in class. Everything in the classroom, even dry erase markers, doors and paper towels, becomes a tool in my quest to impart knowledge,” he said. “I find this type of teaching also opens up even the most introverted student into participating. It is my sincere hope that I bring out the best in every student who takes my class.”

His favorite part of teaching is seeing that “ah-ha” moment when the student suddenly understands and grasps a concept. That connection when a student rekindles a spark of curiosity and discovers they can master material brings Placas joy. His nominator agrees.

“Peter has a passion for what he teaches. He is animated and precise in his explanations for anatomy. He is well-versed in all things anatomy related. He also has a desire to see his students do well. Prior to every exam, he tells us to relax and wishes us all luck. I have never had a professor do such things. Peter makes anatomy relatable and gives marvelous examples to help us remember. Taking a science class as a hybrid is not easy, but taking his class is highly recommended,” said his nominator.