Keuka College Adjunct Instructor of Biology Dr. Dominique Derminio ’11 says what she enjoys most about teaching is when the light of recognition goes on in a student’s eyes.
“My favorite part is when a student goes from completely and utterly confused – they don’t know what to do – to then having that ‘ah-ha!’ moment and seeing everything start to connect,” she says.
And the best way to shorten the trip from “huh?” to “ah-ha!,” she believes, is through active learning.
Dr. Derminio will be sharpening her active learning tools after being awarded a 2021 PALM Fellowship. The PALM Network – PALM stands for Promoting Active Learning and Mentoring – guides instructors in adopting active learning methods in undergraduate courses through networking, professional development, and personal mentors. It’s funded by the NSF Research Coordination Network in Undergraduate Biology Education.
“It’s a network of educators throughout the country ranging from community colleges to R1 schools who engage in teaching as active learning,” says Dr. Derminio. “It’s about not just lecturing, but getting students involved.”
She’ll use the Fellowship award to conduct research, attend conferences, and confer with her mentor, Dr. Jaime Mirowsky of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
“There’s extensive professional development for new fellows,” says Dr. Derminio. “Then, as you progress in your career, you can become a mentor yourself.”
The popular instructor, known as “Dr. D.” among her students, has long had a love of educating others.
“I’ve always loved teaching. I even started teaching my ‘poppy’ long division at age eight, because he never learned it,” she says of her grandfather.
Dr. Derminio earned her Ph.D. in biochemistry at SUNY ESF and her master’s degree in Psychiatry/Molecular Biology at the University of New South Wales in Australia. She left Keuka College with a degree in biochemistry in 2011, but has since returned repeatedly.
“I taught as an adjunct in 2013-14, then came back and taught full time last year,” she says. “And I’m an adjunct this year.”
With biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, nursing chemistry, and neuroscience among the topics she teaches, she’s hoping to make Keuka College her professional home for the same reasons she made it her college of choice.
I honestly loved it here. The professors really care – you have that experiential learning aspect – that was the main reason I came here as a freshman. Also, you’re treated like a person, not a number, like at other schools.
Dr. Derminio is the first Keuka College faculty member to earn a PALM fellowship. They’re not exactly easy to come by; only four were awarded nationally this year.
"At Keuka College, student learning is always our highest priority, and this fellowship will enable us to enhance that,” said Keuka College Chair of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Dr. Michael Keck. “In being chosen as a PALM Fellow, Dr. Derminio has been recognized as a tremendously talented instructor, and will be provided support to engage in activities that will make her even better. In the end, a great instructor is recognized and supported, and our students are the beneficiaries."