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‘Great Teacher’ John Groppo Brings Research Background to the Classroom

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 18, 2022) Six of the University of Kentucky's passionate and accomplished educators were surprised earlier this spring by student nominators and the UK Alumni Association as 2022 Great Teacher Award recipients.

John Groppo, professor of mining engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Kentucky, is one of the distinguished Great Teacher Award recipients who strives to help his students discover their passions.

Groppo was a researcher long before he was an educator. Now, he works to bring his real-world experience into the classroom.

“By doing so, it makes it more realistic,” Groppo explained. “And they can see the opportunity for creativity to solve some of these major problems our society faces.”

The saying goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Groppo heartily agrees, and he has three decades of “going through the trash,” so to speak, to prove it.

Since coming to the Center for Applied Energy Research in the mid-80s, Groppo has focused on utilizing byproducts from industrial processes.

“It’s like recycling, but recycling is using things over and over again. What we’re trying to do is take a waste stream with no value, see if we can separate it into its usable components and ultimately create something of value out of something that was just waste,” he said. “As the world’s population uses all of our rich deposits, I’m trying to not only recover the waste, but going one step further by putting the waste to work.” 

In addition to conducting research and teaching, Groppo also feels he’s been called to be a mentor — to guide students as they discover their place and purpose. "Having an attitude of service is actually critically important to those of us that have been blessed with the opportunity to attend higher education and be involved in a discipline where we can actually make a difference in the world."

Learn more about this UK Alumni Association 2022 "Great Teacher" in the video above and check out this week's “Behind the Blue” podcast, also featuring Groppo.

He is just one of the 2022 UK Alumni Association Great Teacher award winners. This summer, UKNow will highlight each of these Great Teachers. Watch their stories here.

Initiated in 1961, UK’s Great Teacher Award is the longest-running UK award recognizing teaching. In order to receive the honor, educators must first be nominated by a student. The UK Alumni Association Great Teacher Award Committee, in cooperation with the student organization Omicron Delta Kappa, then makes the final selection. Recipients receive an engraved plaque and stipend.

Photo of John Groppo Teaching Class
John Groppo was a researcher long before he was an educator. Now, he works to bring his real-world experience into the classroom. Pete Comparoni | UK Photo.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.