Remembering professor, alumnus Glenn Berkheimer

February 2, 2017

Photo courtesy of Michigan State University Archives.

Alumnus and former Professor Glenn D. Berkheimer passed away recently. He was 90 and a resident of Okemos, Mich.

Berkheimer earned an Ed.D. in 1966 in curriculum before joining the Michigan State University faculty, with joint appointments in the College of Education and a university unit called the Science and Mathematics Teaching Center.

“He took his ideas out into schools,” said Joyce Parker, a faculty member who worked with Berkheimer. “He was able to engage with both students and teachers.”

Throughout his career, Berkheimer’s research focused on increasing student achievement in science. In the 1970s, he co-authored two elementary school science programs: the Houghton Mifflin Modular Activities in Science and the Houghton Mifflin Science Program. He taught courses and consulted on various education projects worldwide—but also left a lasting legacy closer to home.

“He was fascinated by engaging students and their ideas,” said Professor Charles “Andy” Anderson, who collaborated with Berkheimer. “It was a new school of thought back then. Research at that time focused on general theories of child development—but he recognized that students had ideas of their own about science. … He thought outside of the box throughout his entire career.”

Though his interests spanned across elementary, middle and high school, it was specifically the sixth grade that connected to an idea of Berkheimer’s: micro-teaching. In micro-teaching, pairs of preservice teachers worked with a small group of sixth-graders to practice teaching, and analyze their efforts.

He was also an inspiration to younger colleagues.

“Glenn was a role model for me as a new faculty member. He supported my work, and was a valued colleague on several project on which we collaborated,” said Associate Professor Emeritus Edward Smith.

Those who knew Berkheimer describe him as passionate, pragmatic and dedicated to helping others learn (and learn to teach). That dedication is reflected in the Glenn D. Berkheimer Family Endowed Scholarship in Science Education, a planned gift established by Berkheimer and his wife Dolores, to benefit students with an interest in science education.

Berkheimer, who taught at the university for more than 25 years, received many accolades during his career, including the MSU College of Education Outstanding Service Award.