Nathanial Schreiner has seen teaching opportunities at every turn and at every level of the nursing profession.
As a nurse who has worked virtually everywhere but the classroom for most of the last two decades, that has meant sometimes instructing others in clinical settings or in administrative capacities or gently teaching colleagues—or even patients and their families—at hospital bedsides.
For the last three years, however, Schreiner (GRS ’17, nursing) has brought those teaching skills directly to graduate students as an assistant professor at Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University.
Schreiner’s impact has been rapid and remarkable: He was named a winner of a 2022 John S. Diekhoff Award for Graduate Teaching, which he will receive during the university’s commencement ceremonies on Sunday, May 15.
“All of those years in other positions prepared me for this—and showed me that teaching goes on everywhere and with each and every one of us,” he said. “I feel like I’m having an impact at ground level now.”
The recommendations written by some of his students praised him for “going the extra mile,” for working at being “energetic” and “dynamic and captivating” in the classroom—whether by Zoom or in person—and for a “keen ability to share his subject matter expertise.”
One student remarked that Schreiner’s “enthusiasm is palpable and contagious” and that he “transforms his lectures into zestful experiences.” Another cited “an incredible impact on professional development.”
Still another said his supportive approach was far more significant than some might know: “For an exhausted, burnt-out student, it could make or break us. I walked away feeling empowered instead of demeaned.”
Schreiner said he was privileged to be selected by the committee, but even more by his students’ responses: “I am honored,” he said, “but mostly because it demonstrates that you’re making an impact on the students.”
He said he works hard to help students see beyond grades at the graduate level: “It’s not about checking a box anymore,” he said. “It’s about learning a tangible skill set they can apply right now, and in future situations.”
About the award
The Diekhoff Award honors John S. Diekhoff, a distinguished scholar, teacher, mentor and administrator who served Case Western Reserve in several capacities during his tenure from 1956 to 1970: professor of English, chair of the Department of English, dean of Cleveland College, acting dean of the School of Graduate Studies and vice provost of the university.
The Diekhoff Award, established in 1978, recognizes outstanding contributions to the education of graduate students through advising and classroom teaching. The annual award is presented to two faculty members who epitomize what it means to teach graduate students: to connect them with experts in their discipline, engage them academically in a forthright and collegial manner, and actively promote their professional development. In 2009, the Diekhoff Award was expanded to recognize two additional full-time faculty members who excel in the mentoring of graduate students. A committee of Graduate Studies students reviews the nominations and recommends winners.