Melissa Alpers-Springer, assistant professor of communication at William Woods University, received the Louis D. Beaumont Dad’s Association Distinguished Professor Award for Excellence in Teaching at the university’s recent academic honors convocation.
The award carries an honorarium and is given annually to a faculty member who has displayed dedication to teaching.
Alpers-Springer, who lives in Columbia, has been in the teaching profession for 28 years and has been teaching at William Woods since 2008. Her areas of expertise include public speaking, voice and diction, oral interpretation, theatre performance technique and theatre history.
Teaching was not always in her plans. “To be perfectly honest, I wanted to be an actor with my name up in lights on a theatre marquee,” she says. “I soon realized that directing plays fed me so much more than acting ever did and directing and coaching acting is a kind of teaching.”
Her first taste of teaching college came in graduate school when she taught public speaking as a graduate instructor.
“Before grad school, I thought of teaching in terms of kids, but I realized early that elementary and secondary school is not for me, although, I accidentally taught seventh grade one year,” Alpers-Springer says.
A graduate of Missouri State University with a B.A. in theatre and interpretation, she received her master of arts degree in theatre history and theory and criticism from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., in 1988.
“I am much more suited to teaching college because I enjoy interacting with college-level students so much more. Their energy and our conversations help keep me young,” said Alpers-Springer.
She says her favorite part of teaching is definitely the students themselves.
“I find each of my students fascinating: their strengths, their foibles, their struggles, their triumphs. What makes them tick? What are they interested in? What do they know?”
Alpers-Springer makes an effort to know her students outside of the classroom, too. She tries to connect with each of them by chatting before class, at Tucker Dining Hall and in the hallway.
“There is a level of trust that must be established between performance students and me, whether they are giving a speech or performing a monologue,” she says. “Building that trust and working together with students toward a common goal is exciting to me.”
When Alpers-Springer received the award, she was absolutely stunned. She says, “Aimee Sapp and Joe Potter did a great job of working behind the scenes to get my family there. It was a very nice surprise.”
Alpers-Springer has taught at seven different colleges and universities, and states that William Woods is a perfect fit. She says, “The administration and my colleagues create a great place to work, but the students are the reason I roll out of bed every morning.”