As part of its first annual Faculty Awards Ceremony, Utah State University announced Heloisa Rutigliano as the recipient of the Eldon J. Gardner Teacher of the Year Award. Rutigliano is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Animal, Dairy & Veterinary Sciences (ADVS) in the College of Agriculture and Applies Sciences.
“It means a lot that the university is recognizing my efforts and passion for teaching,” she said. “But it also means that I’m making a difference in students’ lives. That’s an amazing process.”
The Eldon J. Gardner Teacher of the Year award is an annual award that recognizes and promotes excellence in teaching. Each dean from USU’s eight colleges selects a nominee to be considered, with a committee choosing the award recipient.
Rutigliano was not initially drawn to teaching when she started her academic career. After studying Veterinary Medicine at Sao Paulo State University in her native Brazil, she came to the United States to study at the University of California, Davis, where she earned her master’s and doctorate degrees in Animal Biology. While working on her graduate degrees, Rutigliano was also a teaching assistant. It was there that her spark for teaching caught flame.
“I thought it was a very fulfilling experience,” she said. “I never thought I would want to be a teacher. But seeing students learn and the excitement of transferring that knowledge to them was inspiring. From that experience, I started thinking about pursuing a teaching career.”
Rutigliano came to Logan in 2009 when she earned a post-doctoral position at USU. She began her teaching career in 2013 when she became a research assistant professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine. Through her near decade as an instructor, Rutigliano has adjusted and refined her teaching philosophy. As a scientist, she approaches her classroom in a similar fashion to the way she approaches any other experiment.
“I have an idea, I test it in the classroom,” she said. “I collect and analyze the results. If the results are positive, I will continue using it in future classes. If the results are not positive, I will modify it or I will move on to another idea. I see myself as a catalyst of learning and I strive to provide a positive learning environment to my students.”
As an instructor, Rutigliano seeks to facilitate an environment in her classroom that is conductive to learning, is collaborative, creative, transparent and empowering to students, helping them to become competent professionals as well as cultivate a desire for lifelong learning. At the start of each semester, she stresses her desire for her students to succeed and makes it clear she welcomes their questions, whether inside or outside of class time.
She is also a proponent of being a lifelong learner herself. In addition to attending research conferences, reading journals, and being part of national and regional organizations, Rutigliano is also an avid student of evolving methods of learning and teaching. She established an ADVS Department Learning Circle where faculty come together to improve their teaching practices. In 2020, that included virtual gatherings of faculty who worked to improve their online teaching.
“After my first few years of teaching, I started getting more interested in the process of how my students learn and how I can better help them and teach them,” she said. “I believe that learning and teaching go hand-in-hand.”
As part of the nomination process for the award, students were asked to provide letters of recommendation for Rutigliano. As she had the chance to read the letters, she was touched to see what students said about her. Seeing the influence she had on their lives, she found even more motivation to teach and develop.
“The things that my students said in those letters, I was so surprised,” Rutigliano said. “I was so inspired because I never thought I had that kind of impact on their lives.”
Rutigliano currently teaches courses in veterinary physiology, immunology, endocrinology, and veterinary ethics and professionalism.