Alissa Proctor

Dr. Alissa Proctor, the recipient of the Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Teaching at a Regional University/Community College, is a professor of optometry at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. She has frequently been honored as Outstanding Teacher of the Year by NSU optometry students because of her passion for her subject matter and her unique teaching style that combines learner-centered techniques and service learning opportunities. In her 17 years as a professor, Proctor’s teaching philosophy has evolved from a lecture-style presentation to creating a learner-centered environment.

“A learner-centered classroom engages students in the learning process while empowering them to take ownership of their learning,” she said. “I avoid relaying information students can read elsewhere by encouraging thinking, application, clinical connections and information retrieval.”

Proctor connects content to real-world applications through case studies and hands-on learning opportunities to apply knowledge to patient care. In her pediatrics course, for example, Proctor invites alumni to bring their children in for students to conduct exams. She also recruits faculty and staff to volunteer as patients while her students work in small groups to examine them and prescribe lenses.

As an advocate for children’s vision programs, Proctor engages her students in service learning by inviting them to participate in vision screenings at local elementary schools. Her students learn how to interact with children, use language children understand and collect data in a fun and engaging way.

“During the past 16 years, I have supervised the screening of almost 21,000 children,” Proctor said. “I am proud of the work optometry students do to take care of the children of Cherokee County.”

As the advisor for SVOSH, Students Volunteering Optometric Services for Humanity, Proctor has organized 12 student service-learning trips to Roatan, Honduras. Joined by professional optometrists, the students have examined thousands of patients who would otherwise not receive eye care, providing glasses, eye drops and referring many for additional care, such as cataract surgery.

“Dr. Proctor uses her profession to advocate for those in need and fosters the same mindset of giving back to the community in her students,” said former student Kayla Cook. “In addition to her work in Honduras, Dr. Proctor is a huge proponent of InfantSee, a program that provides no-cost, comprehensive eye exams to infants before their first birthday. … Her advocacy of SVOSH and InfantSee are awe-inspiring and a testament to her service-oriented mindset.”