The College of Southern Maryland (CSM) honored Associate English Professor John Kulikowski with the college’s Faculty Excellence Award. The annual award honors faculty for outstanding achievement in classroom teaching, contributions both to their department and the college, professional development and community commitment. Kulikowski has distinguished himself among his students and his colleagues in the English and Communications division of CSM’s School of Liberal Arts as being liked and respected by all.
“In my fifteen years teaching, John Kulikowski stands out for his institutional commitment and positive, purposeful impact on today’s community college student,” said CSM Associate English Professor Christopher Ankney. “I am privileged to work closely with John as an English colleague and a member of many shared committees. In my first five years at CSM, I have witnessed John grow into one of its pillars, one who has held the college up, and the department together during the pandemic.
“John is one of the most effective teachers in our department because he empathizes with our students while holding them accountable,” Ankney wrote in his nomination of Kulikowski, further explaining that Kulikowski has been nicknamed ‘Mr. 5s’ because of the consistent high ratings he receives from his students.
“Humbly, John laughs it off, and he never lauds it over anyone,” Ankney added. “In his trademark baseball cap and flannel button-down, John reverts to discussion of his students and their performances. Firsthand, I’ve watched him interact with his students at awards ceremonies, treating them like family.”
“Every decision that I make in the research, preparation, execution, and evaluation for the classes I teach is centered on one central theme: how will this be communicated and understood by all of my students?” Kulikowski explained. “Because our students are so diverse, and represent such a diverse set of backgrounds and experiences, the key to my teaching success resides in having my students know that I value each of their unique perspectives as we build our knowledge and understanding as one cohesive learning community. In part, I accomplish this by being very honest and real with them; they know that I will always tell them the truth and that I will be there for them – both inside and outside the classroom – and help them to meet their goals and push them past the limits that others may have previously instilled in them.”
Kulikowski said he works hard to be cognizant of where his students come from and then he tailors his lectures and readings to meet the students ‘where they are’, so the students will relate the literature and concepts to their own lives.
“Because we have built trust as individuals, it fosters the discussion of these ideas and perspectives as a whole group,” Kulikowski added. “You don’t have much if you don’t have trust, but once you do, the students buy in and are willing to open up and get invested in the experience and process of critical thinking and learning. They trust me, and one another, so together we build, share and grow.”
Kulikowski also shared that while his students have consistently given him high marks as their instructor, he learns from them, too. “What I hope they realize is they are the ones who actually shaped [the class content], and me.”
What are his students saying? Here’s a snapshot:
- John Kulikowski is legitimately one of the greatest teachers I have encountered. He is clear in his teaching and always prepares us for the assignments. I had him as a teacher last semester and I was not about to miss the chance to have him again. He truly makes the subject enjoyable and fun, rather than a box to check. He encourages students but isn’t harsh, he pushes us, but not harder than we can handle. Sincerely one of the best teacher/mentors I have ever had the pleasure of learning from. 10/10 would learn from again.
- Professor John Kulikowski was a great professor and I felt like he really cared for me and all my classmates. He has a great teaching style and good personality, which help connect with us.
- He is a very caring professor who genuinely wants his students to succeed.
- From the start, professor Kulikowski told us that this class was not gonna be easy, which I liked. He always makes sure to describe every new idea, he connects them to life examples, which helps me understand them. He always finds a way to help his students.
- John Kulikowski is, quite frankly, the best professor I have ever had. He brings an excellent atmosphere of fun to his classes, but still keeps students focused
- Kulikowski is a very genuine, and great teacher. Kulikowski makes the classroom environment very comfortable and allows an open room of discussion. I would highly recommend him to every student.
- He is able to keep the students engaged without letting the class become too stale, but also explains key concepts in-depth without being overly complex.
“[John’s] modesty and dedication is what makes him likeable and engaging to everyone at the college,” Ankney continued. “Having grown up in similar conditions to many of our most at-risk students, he uses his own path to help his students forge theirs. His influence collegewide is a novel’s worth unwritten here: co-Chair of Faculty Development, leader in English department initiatives, Writing Across the Curriculum member extraordinaire.”