Lakeland University Blog

Student-centered approach key to award winner’s success


Student-centered approach key to award winner’s success

Susan Sigler has a wealth of experience to draw from as an accounting teacher for Lakeland University.

  • There’s her 25 years in the business world, including roles as a tax accountant, financial analyst and controller.
  • There’s also the two years she spent earning her master of business administration from Lakeland as a non-traditional student.

Put it all together and you have a student-centered approach that make her classes popular and enjoyable with LU students.

For her efforts in and out of the classroom, Sigler has been named the winner of Lakeland’s Outstanding Kellett Adjunct Award. The annual award goes to a teacher who:

  • Recognizes the value of the adult learner’s life experiences and is receptive to the issues and concerns of their students and supportive of their students in and out of the academic setting; and
  • Demonstrates flexibility and understanding in dealing with non-traditional students while holding true to the integrity of the course, program and institution.

Sigler, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., and teaches online for Lakeland, has been teaching accounting at LU for nearly 15 years. She’s found a mix of course content offered through a flexible approach that are Lakeland hallmarks.

Her accounting classes are filled with organizational skills that are drawn from her experience as a seasoned professional. For example, her capstone class includes discussion of a variety of soft skills, topics like “The Fear of Failure,” “Time Management,” “Mindset vs Skillset” and “Organizational Ethics.”

Students discuss the topics in class and are assigned a two-page reflection paper asking them to analyze a past situation in which they felt uncomfortable and how they could have realized a better outcome by applying the material discussed.

“The goal is that when they find themselves in the workplace, not only can they do the accounting work, they can also be successful within the organization, as well as in life,” said Sigler, who serves as financial controller for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte, N.C.

“The student feedback has been extremely positive not only while they are in class but also after graduation. Many times, former students will email and tell me about situations where they successfully used these soft skills in challenging work situations.”

One of the students who nominated Sigler for the award said they appreciate how Sigler takes real life events and relates them to class.

“We are able to talk about what is happening in our lives at the moment in class, and she always relates it somehow to the topic we are learning about,” the nomination said. “In my accounting capstone class, she was able to do this and it was the most fun and best class I have ever had at Lakeland.”

Knowing that her classes are filled with working professionals, Sigler accommodates her students in several ways without compromising the rigor needed for college coursework.

She makes exams available early so students can do schoolwork when it fits their schedules, and she makes herself available so students can contact her based on their schedule.

“I understand that non-traditional students have multiple life components to juggle, so some students work on school early and some do it in the late hours,” Sigler said.

“It was very rewarding to receive my (Lakeland) degree, but one of the best outcomes was the knowledge I gained from the student experience. I now use this knowledge in the classes that I teach. Often, at the beginning of class, one or more of my students will have their child step into the (online) classroom. This is not only fun, but it shows support for their situation and exposes the child to the learning environment.”

Sigler employs that same flexibility in her teaching style and she focuses on developing open, trusting relationships with her students that have led to success with an online platform.

“Once that rapport has been established, they can feel free to be honest and open with their comments,” Sigler said. “At that point, I can ask questions regarding the material, and my teaching of it, to obtain their honest opinions about what and how they are learning. If something isn’t of value and working the way I intended, I will make a change.”

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