If you walk into a class taught by Christy Visaggi, chances are you may catch her singing or doing a dance for her students to help them grasp concepts in Geosciences.
That enthusiasm for teaching paired with her knowledge of Geosciences have earned Visaggi the 2022 Biggs Earth Science Teaching Award from the Geological Society of America Geosciences Education Division.
Katherine Hankins, chair of the Geosciences department, said Visaggi is committed to her students.
“She’s very enthusiastic and engaging,” Hankins said. “Watching her in action with students, she’s very upbeat and positive. She loves to share what she knows about earth science.”
The Biggs award recognizes innovative and effective teaching in college-level earth sciences. Visaggi, who has been a senior lecturer at Georgia State for nearly a decade, said she was thrilled to receive the award.
“It fills my heart with joy to receive this award,” she said. “My mom was a teacher, my grandmother was a teacher. I always knew I wanted a job with some type of education or teaching component in it.”
Visaggi, who grew up loving musical theater, said it’s not just her singing and dancing that caught the attention of the Biggs award selection committee. Visaggi, who is also a Senior Faculty Associate for Signature Experiences, creates compelling courses that engage her students.
She takes her students outside to see examples of erosion in action around campus, discusses and promotes diversity within Geosciences, and gives students the opportunity to present at professional conferences. In her senior role for Signature Experiences she promotes high impact courses for students while helping faculty develop the courses.
“Every time I teach paleontology, everybody in the course knows going in that if they commit to this course they will be working with fossils that haven’t been studied, collecting data on them, doing analysis, etc.,” Visaggi said. “The students will all be co-authors on abstracts submitted to professional conferences, and they’ll have the opportunity to go and present that work themselves.”
Along with the Biggs award, Visaggi has received other awards from Georgia State. In 2015 she received the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning Fellowship followed by a Georgia State University College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Undergraduate Mentoring Award in 2016. She also won the Signature Experience Teaching Award in 2017, and the University Faculty Award for Undergraduate Research in 2018. She also recently received the 2020 Rising Leader award from the National Society of Experiential Education.
Along with being a mentor to her students, Visaggi said she enjoys helping other instructors in the Geosciences department and beyond at the university. She hopes she can serve as an example to others to continue to embrace creative ideas and unique classroom approaches at Georgia State.
“There’s lots of moments in teaching where things can get hard, but knowing how we can positively impact student’s lives really warms my heart,” Visaggi said.