McKendree University teacher receives award for exemplary service to students


Dr. Christine Bahr, McKendree University provost and dean, presents the 2012 United Methodist Church Exemplary Teacher Award to Dr. Martha McDonald, associate professor of nursing, on Honors Day.

LEBANON -- Dr. Martha McDonald doesn’t just use her voice when teaching her nursing students about pathophysiology. She puts her whole body into the effort – literally throwing herself into a wall to make a point.

The point — in that particular instance — is to illustrate the difference between normal breathing and breathing done for a patient by a ventilator.
“(I do a) floating through the air kind of thing, waving my arms — that I’m just a breath coming in naturally. And then I slam myself into a wall to explain that air coming in from a ventilator is slammed into the lungs,” she said.
“I haven’t hurt myself,” she adds. “I have knocked things off the wall.”
It’s that enthusiasm and passion that earned McDonald an Exemplary Teacher Award from the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s Division of Higher Education.
McDonald is associate professor of nursing at McKendree University in Lebanon, Ill. She is one of 50 faculty members at United Methodist-related colleges and universities nominated and selected by their institutions to receive the 2012 spring award for exemplary teaching, service to students beyond the classroom, and commitment to value-centered education.
McDonald’s students are nurses who already have an associate’s degree in nursing and are pursuing a bachelor’s degree at an off-campus site in southern Illinois. The program also offers a master’s degree.
McDonald says she tries to relate the topics she teaches — pathophysiology, health assessment, and nursing research and statistics — to something her students encounter in everyday life. Acting out pathophysiology does that, she says.
“They can anchor it to something in their own experience. These are practicing nurses, so I have the advantage that the class can often discuss a topic from patients they’ve had, rather than in an abstract form.”
And because her students are people already working in their careers, McDonald says she also tries “to put myself in their shoes” and understand when they aren’t able to submit an assignment on time or are having trouble finding information.
“They’re adult learners,” she said. “Life often interrupts or intrudes on their learning, so without just making it too easy. . . I’m willing to make reasonable accommodations for issues that come up. That’s probably my strength (as a teacher).”
*Tita Parham is a freelance writer, editor and communications consultant based in Apopka, Fla.