Paying it Forward
Published on 24 May 2016
Professor Lucia Tranel has been making a difference one student at a time at the College for 38 years. With a natural ability to motivate and connect with her students, Tranel has devoted her career to ensuring students are being taught how they learn best.
Tranel first recognized her love for teaching while instructing biology labs during her graduate studies in physiology and virology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She was then recommended for a position at St. Louis College of Pharmacy. Tranel has since taught a variety of classes in the basic sciences department including microbiology, physiology, anatomy, and histology. "Over the years, my position has changed and evolved," Tranel says. "I’ve had a lot of different positions and that’s been so wonderful."
With an engaging, student-centered approach to teaching, Tranel has been a constant and inspiring example of what it means to be a successful educator. The recipient of two Joe E. Haberle Outstanding Educator Awards from the Alumni Association, Tranel has dedicated her career to creating a fun and supportive environment where students are held to high standards. "It’s so important to change and adapt to meet the students’ needs, recognizing that they all come in with different skills, perceptions, and histories," Tranel says.
Tranel has spent years studying how students learn best. "I find educational research very rewarding. For a number of years, I’ve studied what helps students understand and remember the material," Tranel explains. "We typically think of students as visual learners, but I’ve found that they are really more kinesthetic learners, that is, they learn more through hands-on activities."
Students describe Tranel as a wonderful mentor and teacher who genuinely cares for them and understands their point of view. She has served as an advisor for Pharmakon, a student newspaper published once a month, and also chaired a subcommittee with the goal of improving communications at the College.
Over the years, Tranel has become one of the most beloved teachers among students and the feeling is mutual. "Just as I’ve developed a family relationship with the people I work with, that becomes the case with many of the students that enter your life. There are a number of students that stay in touch. It’s very satisfying and special to know that you’re still important to them."
Great food is an important element in Tranel’s life, so she likes to describe her teaching philosophy in terms of preparing a meal for her students. "As a teacher, I try to develop a menu that will whet the students’ appetites and keep them satisfied, but not so full that they don’t want to come back for another meal." Tranel says. "You want to include things that are light and pleasant like humor, but there is some material that will need a fork and a knife, not just the dessert spoon."
Tranel has a truly inspiring outlook when it comes to the power of education and the responsibility it comes with. "Education is a huge commodity. It’s a tool, but it’s also a gift. Being educated opens up so many doors and empowers students to make a difference," Tranel explains. "We admire philanthropists who give their money to worthy causes, but you can also give back using your education. If you give money, it’s gone from your pocket. If you give an education, you don’t lose your education, in fact you may actually augment your education in the process. I think that’s so important to get our students to think about, passing on their educations from a philanthropic point of view."
For nearly four decades, Tranel has shared her knowledge and expertise with hundreds of students at the College. She will be greatly missed by her peers and students, as she retires this spring after the 2015-16 academic year. Tranel is looking forward to spending more time with her children and grandchildren and traveling with her husband to visit relatives. She hopes to continue teaching in an adjunct professor role, so she can still do the very best part of her job—interacting with students in the classroom.
"The most consistent things I will remember about my career at the College are the great relationships I’ve developed and the sense of mentoring with my peers. It feels like a family. That will be my longest lasting memory of the College."
This story was originally published in the fall 2016 issue of Script, the College’s alumni magazine. Read the current and past issues online at stlcop.edu/script.