Aaron Clark, a professor of technology, engineering and design education and head of the Department of STEM Education in the NC State College of Education, has been awarded the Technology and Engineering Teacher Educator of the Year Award from the International Technology and Engineering Education Association (ITEEA) and the Council on Technology and Engineering Teacher Education (CTETE).
The annual award, which is the highest national honor for technology and engineering teacher education, recognizes one individual whose contributions in teaching, research and service to the profession have been exemplary.
“I’ve never been one to go out and seek awards. I’ve always appreciated when I’ve gotten them, and this one, in particular, means so much to me because this is what I spent the past 30 years working on,” Clark said. “I feel honored and flattered, but it’s actually a reflection of the people that got me here, that supported me.”
When Clark first began his career, his work focused heavily on teaching engineering design graphics to engineering students. As time went on, however, he realized that he could not only research better practices for teaching concepts like 3D modeling and computer design, but ways to produce better pedagogy practices for teaching the concepts in technology and engineering education.
“Everything is in 3D, but I’ve got to get students, somehow, to work with standards and conventional practices to visualize things in different ways,” he said. “That unique challenge of trying to get people to develop their visual literacy and their understanding behind the best ways to communicate professionally has always been something important to me and important for what I give to the profession with my research, for both students and professionals.”
Clark says he is proud of his research in scientific and technical visualization, which shows that visual capability is important beyond the field of technology and engineering, and can be applied to those working in science and business communities.
As a teacher educator, Clark said he is proud of his work related to 3D technical animation and in modeling for future educators how to teach graphics. He has previously received an award from the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) for his work as a leader of teaching and research in graphics education, animation and scientific visualization.
Clark said in order for future educators to teach graphics, they have to know more than just how to use the programs and software. To teach the subject holistically, they must understand the theory behind it and how to apply that theory to solve problems.
That specific blending of skills, he said, is one of the reasons it’s difficult to find people who are qualified to teach technology, engineering and design, and the combination of methodology, pedagogy and content taught in technology, engineering, and design education courses in the College of Education, he said, has been something he values at NC State.
“I’ve always appreciated that we’ve been able to link pedagogy with skill development and content understanding,” he said.
What Clark most hopes for as an educator, though, is that students who graduate after taking his courses see the value in visual communication.
“I believe in integrated STEM, where we work to produce a really good student in education or industry that’s innovative, a good problem solver, who has critical thinking skills and who can enhance that by the use of graphics,” he said.