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Otterbein MAT alumna Nowlin wins Distinguished Teacher Award

Otterbein MAT alumna Nowlin wins Distinguished Teacher Award


The prospect can be scary — leaving a high-paying career to become a teacher. But Kelli Nowlin, a married mother of three with a full-time career, did just that and found her calling.

Nowlin stepped out of her comfort zone to follow her passion for education and attend Otterbein, where she earned a Masters of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree. She recently was awarded the Distinguished Teaching Award from Columbus State Community College, where she has been an English instructor since 2008. In addition to teaching in the English Department, she teaches critical thinking classes in the Arts and Sciences division. She earned her undergraduate degree at Ohio University.

The Distinguished Teaching Award is special to Nowlin since teaching was not her first career choice. Her background was in media and public relations where she spent almost 15 years, working everywhere from a small radio station in Chillicothe to NBC4 TV in Columbus, where she was a producer and Franklin University, where she was communications director

It was during her work in higher education that she realized that she enjoyed working with students and wanted to make a difference in their lives.

“As long as students know that I care about them, they will accept the high expectations I set for them and work hard to accomplish them.” 

Nowlin attributes Otterbein’s MAT program with playing a significant role in the quality of her teaching. She believes that she doesn’t have to be a perfect teacher to help students learn and meet their educational, professional and personal goals.

“I feel strongly that without the MAT program, I would not have received the Distinguished Teaching Award,” Nowlin said. “In the Otterbein MAT program, I learned hands-on teaching strategies that have proven to be overwhelmingly effective in those areas specifically.”

Nowlin remembers Professor of Education Diane Ross as having a big influence on her. She explained that Ross made it clear to her students that teaching is not just a job, but a calling. This ethos helped to shape Nowlin’s teaching philosophy. Ross believed that if teachers weren’t willing to treat each student as though they were their only student, then we should choose another field. It was those high expectations that pulled Nowlin out of her comfort zone and challenged her to be the best teacher she could be.

Nowlin’s advice to others who may want to teach is that there is a significant difference between being an expert in a subject and knowing how to teach it. She learned that teaching is as much an art as it is a science. There is no one right way to teach. New teachers and seasoned teachers alike will stumble along the way, but there is always a need for committed, passionate and creative teachers.

“I would recommend taking the chance, especially with the Otterbein MAT program to guide you. It just may be a life-changing decision.” 

Otterbein University offers graduate education programs for licensed teachers who want to transform their teaching practice and also those seeking initial teacher licensure. Visit www.otterbein.edu/graduate for more information.