Center for Excellence Honoree: Joseph Cristiano

Joseph CristianoHis philosophy on teaching.

That was the reason given from the Center for Excellence last spring when Joseph Cristiano found out he had become a semifinalist for one of the Excellence in Teaching awards.

Although he had never written it down before, his philosophy had been in the works since Cristiano began teaching in the University's School of Education in 1995. It was something he tweaked over the years, until recently finding a system that works, what he refers to as "making the classroom like a laboratory" by encouraging instant feedback from his students.

"This has evolved over time here," said Cristiano, one of six Quinnipiac employees who will be honored Oct. 15 at the annual Center for Excellence in Teaching and Service to Students dinner.

"I'm never really satisfied with my teaching. I always felt that because you're teaching teachers, you should be doing something different... I'm very thankful to the students for giving me that opportunity to think it through," he said. "And I like doing it. I think they like it. They indicate to me that they like the interaction.

"They see something. They know why it's being done, but then we pull back and say 'OK, how did it work? What would you do?' So I think it makes teaching come alive for them."

On a nomination form for the adjunct professor of education and coordinator of field placement, Brian Walach, a senior mathematics major, said, "He teaches us his methods, and is not afraid to tell us exactly what he is doing in class and why he is doing it. This only helps us grow as future teachers."

The New Haven native's résumé includes a 27-year tenure in the Hamden school system, working as an English teacher, department chair, building administrator and deputy superintendent along the way.

In addition to teaching at Quinnipiac, he has served for seven years as coordinator of field placement, ensuring that the juniors and seniors enrolled in the five-year program are properly placed as teaching assistants in area public schools.

"Joe is passionate about his work. He's thorough, organized, detail-specific," said faculty member John Leary, who has been friends with Cristiano since attending first grade with him at St. Francis School in New Haven. "The students here are very pleased with what he gives them. He's very encouraging. He signs off everything with 'Do well.' "

"I think he's one of the most supportive teachers I've ever met," added Nick Federn, a second-year student in the graduate teaching program. "No matter what you come to him with, he always has a positive outlook on it."

Away from class, Cristiano's interests include "trying to play golf" and collecting stamps. His most prized possession is a five-cent stamp from 1848 the first year they were released in the United States, featuring a portrait of Benjamin Franklin. It was given to him by his wife, Frances, for their 30th wedding anniversary.

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