Ridgewater Photography Instructor Named Outstanding Educator
April 12, 2023
Ridgewater College’s Wade McDonald of Hutchinson was recently honored for his teaching excellence by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System Board of Trustees. McDonald teaches in the Professional Photography and the Photography and Design programs.
Minnesota State will recognize all 2023 Outstanding Educators at an April 19 celebration banquet in St. Paul. For now, the Minnesota State website recognizes all honorees with photos and highlights at www.minnstate.edu/stories/botawards.
“McDonald has led innovative student-centered changes to the program and throughout the college, using digital tools to support flexibility, exposing students to cutting-edge technology, such as virtual reality, and promoting interactive and collaborative learning,” states the Minnesota State website.
Ridgewater administration agrees. “Wade was nominated and recognized for this award because of his outstanding commitment to Ridgewater College, the Professional Photography program, and most importantly, his students,” said Matt Feuerborn, Ridgewater dean of technical programs. “As a teacher, he is committed to the process of teaching and learning with a commitment to being as effective as possible in his classes. As a professional photographer, he keeps a finger on the pulse of the evolving trends and best practices to help ensure that students are prepared to enter today’s workforce.”
McDonald has been an educator at Ridgewater College since 2015. He began at the Willmar campus but broadened his impact by working with his Photography colleague, Amy Pawelk (two-time Outstanding Educator nominee), to convert the program to an online format with complementary in-person studio and lab time at both Willmar and Hutchinson campuses. Students who take the online courses receive the necessary photography equipment to complete all the hands-on projects.
As one of two curriculum and instruction specialists, McDonald assists all faculty in modernizing their curriculum through technology. In this role, he co-leads a professional growth podcast with colleague Mary Gruis (2015 Outstanding Educator) titled Rethink, Relearn, Repeat, and co-facilitates a book club specifically addressing a variety of themes, including culturally responsive teaching, inclusive instruction, and student-centered pedagogy.
McDonald holds a Master’s degree in Educational Technology from Minnesota State University, Mankato; a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Graphic Design; and a Bachelor of Art degree from Minnesota State University, Moorhead.
“To be nominated and then chosen by the committee to represent Ridgewater College for this award is an honor,” McDonald said. “I know there are a lot of other faculty members who do amazing jobs — for their students, the college, and the community — and deserve this award also.” More than 20 Ridgewater faculty were nominated for the award.
“Wade is an advocate for continuous learning and professional development and models these behaviors in all that he does,” Feuerborn added. “He has an unwavering commitment to innovative teaching practices and course delivery, culturally responsive pedagogy, and dedication to professional development and growth.”
The Outstanding Educator nomination commends McDonald for creating engaging and comfortable learning environments, helping students manage course deadlines, and being readily available to foster a climate of connection and support.
“With this recognition, Wade joins an elite group of outstanding educators at Ridgewater College,” said Ridgewater College President Dr. Craig Johnson. “In addition to his strong commitment to students, Wade excels in his contributions to collaboration, innovation and service to the college community. We are very fortunate to have Wade on our faculty at Ridgewater!”
“This award means a lot to me,” McDonald said. “I’ve been in the visual communications industry since I graduated from college about 20 years ago. Working at Ridgewater College has been a great opportunity to bring together my experiences doing portrait photography, graphic design, and commercial photography to enrich students’ education with real-life examples and scenarios that have been built into the curriculum. Working alongside my colleagues Pawelk and Amy Maher (2008 Outstanding Educator), we’ve had fun collaborating and expanding the Visual Communications department.”
Service to the college outside of the classroom for McDonald has included enthusiastic involvement in career exploration and outreach, online student orientation, Minnesota State College Faculty representative for the computers and technology division, faculty governance, and the Academic Affairs and Standards Council. Community involvement has included board membership for the Hutchinson Center for the Arts and varied involvement with the Hutchinson Photography Club and numerous community clubs and efforts.