Dordt College News

Dordt communication professor earns Outstanding Educator Award

April 16, 2012

Respected. Godly. Mentor. Leader. These are some of the words people use to describe Dr. Charles Veenstra, Dordt College professor of communication. To those who know him or had him in class, his latest international honor seems like the perfect fit.

Veenstra was awarded the Outstanding Educator of the Year Award from the International Listening Association (ILA) in March. The annual award is presented to an individual who is a member of the ILA in good standing, is a teacher, is knowledgeable about listening and how to teach listening, teaches listening, and shares his or her knowledge and techniques for teaching listening with others.

“Under his leadership, Dordt College’s communication department has grown to include listening within the curriculum,” wrote Kae Van Engen, Dordt College adjunct professor of communication, in her nomination letter to the ILA. Veenstra has co-authored a textbook used in Dordt’s introductory classes and developed interpersonal and family communication classes that incorporate listening. He believes that ‘listening is the most important skill to acquire.’

“Dr. Veenstra has always been a leader on our campus, combining a passion for excellence, a caring spirit, and a hunger for learning,” said Erik Hoekstra, Dordt College provost. “He has exemplified our calling to Christian teaching and scholarship and is beloved and respected by students, alumni, and faculty alike.”

Encouraging good listening skills in the classroom requires creating a safe environment where students are welcome to share their opinions, says Veenstra. “I tell the students to listen to everybody’s story. Everyone has an interesting story, and the more you listen to that person the more interesting that person becomes.”

His students are “challenged to stretch their minds, formulate responses, and defend their opinions,” said Barb Mellema, a former student of Veenstra’s and currently the director of annual giving at Dordt College.

His best advice for listening better? “Look the other person in the eye. Smile. But probably most importantly, don’t interrupt.”

Veenstra has served as the communication department chair at Dordt College where he has taught since 1976. He has been a part of the International Listening Association since 1981 and has served on the board as vice president.

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