Psychology Professor Erica Kleinknecht Named Teacher of the Year by Western Psychological Association

Erica KleinknechtPacific University Professor Erica Kleinknecht, who teaches undergraduate psychology, has been awarded the Western Psychological Association’s Outstanding Teaching Award. The award was conferred April 28, 2023 at  the association’s annual convention in Riverside, Calif.

Kleinknecht, who has taught at Pacific since 2002, said she is gratified by the honor. In psychology, she said, “we don’t have many opportunities to be recognized for our teaching work.” She prizes the chance to reach college students because it is, she said, a special time in their lives.

“At no other time in your life do you get to put some aspects of your life on hold so that you can anticipate how to make your future better,” she said. “That makes the classroom a really special and powerful place.”

Her classes are known to be rigorous and, sometimes, unconventional. She gives open-book tests, for example, and allows students repeated chances to rewrite essays, or even essays in the form of letters. When she started teaching, she taught in a more typical way, she said, with memorization tests and cumulative finals, but found “that students fizzled out at the end of the term,” turning in final papers that often were “lackluster.” 

This has changed since she revamped her teaching format. When students present their final projects, she said in a prepared statement, “they demonstrate mastery and speak with authority on complex topics. We have lively and hopeful discussions in our finals now, about how they can make an impact in the world, one conversation, book reading session, or website navigation at a time.”

Kleinknecht has won various teaching awards, including the President’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, published a variety of papers and made multiple professional presentations.

Kleinknecht’s colleague on the psychology faculty, Professor Alyson Burns-Glover, won the same award from the Western Psychological Association a year ago.

Friday, April 28, 2023