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Social work professor receives teaching award from colleagues

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Ada Schmidt-Tieszen, professor of social work at Bethel College, received the Ralph P. Schrag Distinguished Teaching Award at this year’s Bethel College commencement May 24.

The award is given to a faculty member by the academic dean, based on recommendations and evaluations from both peers and students, to recognize an outstanding contribution to teaching. It is presented periodically at commencement in order to “symbolically affirm the importance that Bethel College places on excellent teaching by our faculty and meaningful learning by our students,” said Brad Born, vice president for academic affairs.

Presenting the award to Schmidt-Tieszen, Born said, “Students appreciate learning from Ada through a variety of teaching techniques: lecture, discussion, role-playing, rehearsal of skills, group work and field trips. As one student states, the learning in her classes happens ‘hands on, not just in lecture.’ Another says, ‘She helps me see book stuff put into practice.’

“Perhaps the highest compliment students give Ada is their recognition of her personal and professional integrity,” Born added, “and praise for her modeling the skills and practices that she seeks to foster in others. In the words of students: ‘She exhibits the traits and skills we learn in class’; ‘She is a real role model for me’; ‘Observing her is the best example of all.’

“That integrity of Ada’s performance at Bethel transcends her teaching,” Born continued. “It was that integrity that led her to complete a Ph.D. in 2004 even though her earlier professional experience and teaching had earned her tenure in 1993. That integrity is evident in Ada’s contributions to the local community – for instance, in her current service on the Board of Directors of two Newton agencies, Offender Victim Ministries and Mirror, Inc.

“Ada, thank you for modeling through your teaching the excellence, integrity and service to which we hope all Bethel graduates aspire.”

“It’s affirming and very humbling to receive the Schrag teaching award,” Schmidt-Tieszen said. “Teaching is the number one priority at Bethel, and success emerges within the context of a lively community of colleagues who support and challenge one another. I feel privileged to learn and grow with such excellent role models and faculty mentors.”

She added, “It’s been a true joy to work with a diverse group of interesting and bright students who have taught me much while I was teaching them.”

Schmidt-Tieszen joined the Bethel faculty in 1985 after several years of social work practice in Denver, where she served as director of an assistance center for low-income and transient persons, as coordinator for a Meals on Wheels program that served five metropolitan counties, as a clinician for Southwest Denver Mental Health Center and as the assistant executive director for financial development for the YWCA of Metropolitan Denver. While in Colorado, she also completed her Masters of Social Work degree at the University of Denver. She earned her Ph.D. at the University of Kansas.

Schmidt-Tieszen’s daughter Tina is a 2007 social work graduate of Bethel College and her daughter Alison is a current Bethel student.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the only Kansas private college to be ranked in’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008 and one of only two Kansas colleges listed in Colleges of Distinction 2008-09. For more information, see the Bethel web site at

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