By: Rebecca Bayens
Dr. Thomas Knestrict of the Childhood Education and Literacy department was awarded the 2013 Bishop Fenwick Teacher of the Year award.
The award was presented by the Xavier chapter of Alpha Sigma Nu, the Jesuit honors society. Each year’s winner is nominated by Xavier students.
“I was stunned [when I found out],” Knestrict said in a recent email. “I’m thinking, really? Me? This kid who had such real struggles in school is winning the university’s highest teaching award? [I was] honored.”
Knestrict, who is an associate professor of education, has been at Xavier for nine years and teaches child development, observation methods and integrated curriculum courses.
“I taught in public schools for 15 years and at Miami and Mount St. Joseph’s, and this place is the most comfortable I’ve been,” Knestrict said.
Knestrict said that his favorite part about teaching at Xavier is developing good relationships with his students.
“I know them as people,” he continued. “We have the luxury of engagement… that combined with the Jesuit traditions of excel-lence and service to others makes this a unique place.”
According to the Xavier website, Knestrict is known for his Remarkable Families Symposium, which helps families who have children with special needs.
Alpha Sigma Nu advisor Michelle Brady stated that Knestrict’s student nominators “praised his knowledge, his passion and his commit-ment to his students both in and out of the classroom.”
This commitment to learning started in college for Knestrict, who at-tended community college in Cleveland before moving on to the University of Cincinnati and Kent State.
“I was diagnosed with ADD early on and then labeled with a learning disability,” Knestrict said. “I couldn’t read or write very well and I barely graduated from high school…[at community college] I had a professor who basically saved my life. He taught me to read, to write and to think. He taught me how to be a student. It was a fabulous experience.”
More than anything, Knestrict says he is thankful for the life he has here in Cincinnati, which includes his work at Xavier.
“I’m blessed to be here,” Knestrict said. “I’m blessed to be able to come to work and do a job that actually might change the world for the better. I’m blessed to be teaching some of the best, most creative and focused students I have ever had the privilege of teaching, in a department led by the most talented leader I have ever followed, Dr. Cindy Geer. Life is good.”