Professor Emerita of Biology Dr. Janice Haldeman has been recognized for her contributions to undergraduate biology education by the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT), receiving the Four-Year College & University Section Biology Teaching Award.
As an award winner, Haldeman attended the NABT Professional Development Conference in Cleveland Nov. 12-15 and gave a presentation entitled “Nature’s Pharmacy— Foraging for Plants That Can Heal: A Lab for Multi-Level Biology.”
Haldeman has served on the Erskine College faculty since 1967, teaching and mentoring hundreds of students, many of whom have gone on to graduate school and careers in scientific fields.
It was one of those successful students, 1969 Erskine College graduate and NABT President-Elect Dr. Jane Ellis, who both nominated Haldeman for the award and presided at the NABT honors luncheon.
Thereby hangs an Erskine tale.
“Jane Ellis was a junior biology major at Erskine when I began my teaching career, and she was my first lab assistant,” Haldeman recalled. “Later, when Jane returned to Due West with a graduate degree in biology and began teaching biology at Dixie High School, we both joined NABT and cooperated on a number of projects.”
Meanwhile, Haldeman was working on her Ph.D. at Clemson University. “I was still healing from a badly broken leg when my final orals for the Ph.D. were scheduled,” she said.
“Jane drove me to Clemson, attended my oral presentation, and met my committee. Soon afterwards, she also began her Ph.D. program at Clemson, and subsequently taught biology at Presbyterian College until her retirement.”
The two have kept in close touch over the years. “We’re still ‘best biology buddies,’” Haldeman said. “We both became AP Biology readers, grading essay tests at sites such as Clemson and the University of Nebraska.”
Since Haldeman’s retirement in 2002 she has continued to teach botany courses at Erskine and has worked to develop the Pressly Heritage Garden on the Erskine campus.
Haldeman and Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Naoma Nelsen offer the Discovery Garden summer program for children (now known as DIG), using the Pressly Garden as a key setting for activities. She has remained active in NABT and other professional organizations, and received the South Carolina Wildlife Federation Education Conservationist Award in 2012.
Haldeman noted that Ellis has held leadership positions in NABT as well as in the South Carolina Academy of Science and the American Society for Plant Biology.
“Jane nominated me for the NABT award the same year she was serving as president-elect,” Haldeman said. “One of her duties at this year’s conference was to preside at the honors luncheon, so it was she who presented awards to me and others at the event.”
Haldeman, who lives in Due West with her husband, retired Erskine Public Relations Director Richard Haldeman, goes out of her way to collect botanical samples, sometimes when her husband is at the wheel. He is accustomed to pulling over when she spies an interesting plant at the side of the road. She usually carries a reference book to help her identify the plants, but people who know her might wonder how often she needs to consult it, given the taxonomic data she carries in her head.
“Teaching through experiential learning translates to teaching success at every level,” Haldeman says. “A key to successful teaching is that the teacher continues to learn.”
Dr. Kerry Cheesman, Geist Professor of Biological Sciences at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, and Awards Chair of the NABT College and University Section, told Haldeman, “We had many quality nominees for the award this year, but your portfolio rose to the top in the selection process.”
Longtime Erskine colleague Dr. Mary Lang Edwards, who recently retired as Professor of Biology, said Haldeman’s award “reflects a lifetime of work” and comes from “the premier biology treachers’ professional organization in the United States.”
Haldeman paid tribute to her NABT biology colleagues, calling her experiences of meeting with them and learning from them “valuable sources of enrichment and joy.”
As for the students to whom she has devoted her professional life, she cites them as sources of happiness.
“Working with Erskine’s students through the years has been an honor and a joy. It always amazes me how many move on to careers and accomplishments that inspire so many, especially me, and it has been such a privilege to have a small part in the accomplishments of these students.”
Then there’s Haldeman’s very first lab assistant, Jane Ellis. “Jane usually introduces me as her ‘mentor,’ but she is definitely one of Erskine’s biology graduates who has inspired me.”
Dr. Janice Haldeman, who is in her 49th year of teaching biology at Erskine, holds the B.S. from Rollins College, the M.A. degree from Peabody College of Vanderbilt University, and the Ph.D. from Clemson University. She served as a full-time faculty member from 1966-2002.
Dr. Jane P. Ellis, president-elect of NABT, earned the master’s degree at Appalachian State University, taught science at Dixie High School, and then earned the Ph.D. at Clemson University. She went on to teach at Presbyterian College.
The National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT), founded in 1938, empowers educators to provide the best possible biology and life science education for all students. As the recognized leader in life science education, the organization represents and supports teachers, students, scientists, and allied professional organizations to enhance and improve biological literacy for all.