“Back to Top” Hidden Anchor

At its September 1993 meeting, the Board of Governors adopted a report on Tenure and Teaching in the University of North Carolina. The report, prepared jointly by the Board’s Committee on Personnel and Tenure and its Committee on Educational Planning, Policies, and Programs, reaffirmed the Board’s insistence that teaching is the primary responsibility of each of the 17 constituent institutions of the University. To underscore the importance of teaching and to encourage, identify, recognize, reward, and support good teaching within the University, the Board adopted a set of six specific recommendations, including the following:

That the Board of Governors create annual systemwide teaching awards with monetary stipends which are designated “Board of Governors Awards for Excellence in Teaching.”

Each recipient is honored at their respective campus Spring commencement ceremony by a member of the Board of Governors and receives a $12,500 stipend and a bronze medallion.


Appalachian State University


Lisa Adkins Runner

Lisa Adkins Runner serves as an associate professor of music education in the Hayes School of Music at Appalachian State University. She joined the Hayes School of Music as an adjunct faculty member in August of 2000 and began work as assistant professor of music education in August 2006.

Visitors to Runner’s classes observe students listening, singing, moving, playing musical instruments and creating their own compositions. Students collaborate with partners, work in small groups, and participate in hands-on activities requiring analysis and reflection. Presentation of information and skill development in every class proceeds from the simple to complex, each activity providing a strong foundation for subsequent, more complicated assignments. Students are involved in relevant discussions and sample activities before completing individual or small group projects without instructor assistance. A former student, now a high school teacher, reflected, “I still hold tightly to a quote she included in her course syllabus: ‘Tell me, I’ll forget. Show me, I may remember. Involve me, I’ll understand.’ Dr. Runner does this incredibly well; she goes beyond telling her students information or even showing them how to teach. She involves students every single day in activities, in discussions, in every process of learning, and the things she teaches stay with them.”

Communicating effectively with individuals from all walks of life undergirds Runner’s teaching and work as a club sponsor; knowing her students is first priority as conversations both inside and outside of the classroom help to create a learning community where it’s safe to take risks. One former student observed, “Her classroom truly felt like a comfortable place where we could develop creative compositions and try novel instrumental arrangements, all without the fear of “failure” or rejection.” Another reflected, “She showed me my strengths, but more importantly, she helped me to see the areas where I needed to grow, and she always did it in a way that was positive and nurturing. I think that is one of Dr. Runner’s most unique traits; she helps you to see the positive in everything.”

A colleague summarized Runner’s work at Appalachian State University saying, “Dr. Runner’s instruction is marked by empathy and compassion for students, a deeply held commitment to teaching, and a dedication to excellence. When commenting on her work, Dr. Runner frequently remarks, ‘I can’t imagine doing anything else.’ This belief is affirmed in her classroom daily as her demeanor and excellence provide evidence she has indeed found her life calling in teaching. This passion for and contentment with life work is evident to students and they freely reflect back to her and others they respect and love she offers them. I have heard many students unabashedly remark that Dr. Runner is the best teacher they have ever had. “

Runner received her Bachelor of Arts in music from Milligan College, the Master of Arts in media services from East Tennessee State University, and the Doctorate of Education in educational leadership from Appalachian State University.

Q. The Teaching Awards were established in 1994 to underscore the importance of teaching and to encourage, identify, recognize, reward, and support good teaching within the University. What does this award mean to you?

A. In recent years I have had the pleasure of celebrating with some amazing colleagues who received this significant recognition, never imaging that I might one day also be nominated. Receiving this award is humbling. I count it a great honor to be considered for an award dedicated to excellence in teaching. I hope it represents the lives I have touched in a positive way and will provide me an opportunity to highlight the Hayes School of Music and its faculty.

Q. What was your path into the teaching profession?

A. As the child, niece and younger cousin of seven public school teachers, I grew up certain that teaching was a career path I’d never follow. In reality, however, it is all I’ve ever done and all I ever wanted to do. As an undergraduate student, a professor took an interest in me and encouraged me to attend professional conferences and opened the door to a lot of opportunities that I would not have had otherwise. I began to see that teaching would really be rewarding.

Q. Besides this award, is there one particular achievement in your career that makes you especially proud?

A. While teaching provides great rewards on so many levels, I am especially proud of the times I’ve been able to restore a student’s belief in his or her abilities or awaken in them a new love of music.   

For instance, I have seen a student’s desire to engage in music hampered as a result of criticism he or she received when a child. Oftentimes years into adulthood, the student thinks “I can’t” because of that criticism. When these students see that they can sing, or play drums or xylophones, it becomes a great celebration. I want my classes to be life lifting and reaffirming, and I want the experiences my students have and their time together to be positive.

Q. What teaching methods do you use to engage students?

A. I presently teach music methods classes for students preparing to be elementary school teachers and a general education music course that any student may enroll in. All of these classes are activity based. Elementary education majors might sit on the floor and learn a Native American stone passing game that can be used to integrate music into a social studies class. I also want these students to have hands-on experience with as many instruments as possible. For instance, the dulcimer is relatively easy to learn, space efficient and lightweight, and can fit easily into the elementary classroom if a teacher would like to have an instrument to accompany singing. Appalachian lap dulcimers also provide a nice connection with social studies and geography.

Students in my general education course regularly collaborate with partners, work in small groups and participate in hands-on activities requiring analysis and reflection. They play a wide variety of instruments as they compose and share a series of short pieces based on topics such as common occupations or statues installed on the Appalachian campus. I value the learning that occurs during this creative process and work to maintain a supportive classroom environment where students are willing to step out of their comfort zone in order to try new things.

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East Carolina UNIVERSITY


Richard Williams

Richard Williams, an associate professor of recreation therapy in the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies in the College of Health and Human Performance at East Carolina University, is a leader in his discipline, serving as the 2015 president-elect of the National Academy of Recreational Therapists and of the North Carolina Recreational Therapy Association. His scholarship includes work on therapy services for individuals with spinal cord injury, ethical practices in recreational therapy, and the role of the recreational therapist in public policy. During his 15 years at East Carolina University, he has led in curriculum development and delivery, developed a graduate teaching assistant seminar, and mentored students and colleagues in the use of instructional technologies.

“Good teachers,” Williams says, “can change the world in subtle yet powerful ways. When I teach the graduate student teaching seminar, I have the honor and humbling responsibility of providing guidance to novice college teachers.  Working with these students has taught me that not all good teaching happens exactly the same way.” Williams believes that teachers have to be passionate.  “Teaching my students not only lends meaning to my life, but provides me with an opportunity to improve the world.  I can only light a fire in my students if there is a fire burning in me.” Williams enjoys teaching large classes saying, “I like the challenge of keeping a big group of students engaged.”

Williams believes in using a variety of techniques both in and outside the class.  In a recent course, for example, his students helped facilitate an adaptive waterski clinic for people with physical disabilities. He believes it is necessary to create an open and social classroom environment where trust and honesty foster greater learning. Class should be fun, organized, and fair. Good teaching is a debt owed to students and to the academy. He says, “I am in a position of honor and privilege that I will not squander.  I feel incredibly lucky to have the best job in the world. “

Williams earned the BA in literature from the University of Georgia, the BS in recreation and leisure studies with an emphasis on recreation therapy at Virginia Commonwealth University, and the MS and EdD in recreation and leisure studies at the University of Georgia.

Q. The Teaching Awards were established in 1994 to underscore the importance of teaching and to encourage, identify, recognize, reward, and support good teaching within the University. What does this award mean to you?

A. Winning this award is certainly among the most, if not the most, meaningful things that I have experienced in my professional life. While both flattering and humbling, it is a particularly large honor because I know just how many terrific teachers there are here at ECU. If I were to be completely self-disclosing, I would tell you that I had to fight back tears when I heard that I had won. The award affirms the years of effort I have poured into my classes, and that affirmation is very heart-warming.

Q. What was your path into the teaching profession?

A. I stumbled upon an opportunity for a generous graduate assistantship that ultimately resulted in my decision to enroll in a graduate program. I can remember a particular moment in a stairwell where I had to choose between a job and graduate school. One of the responsibilities of the assistantship included teaching one course per semester. I was hooked on teaching almost immediately. In hindsight, taking that graduate assistantship and returning to school was one of the best decisions I have made.

Q. Besides this award, is there one particular achievement in your career that makes you especially proud?

A. I have won several teaching awards, and I am proud of each of them. However, I am particularly proud of my former students’ accomplishments. I don’t take credit for them, but it is nice to know that I had some effect on them and helped them find their paths. Hearing from a former student makes my day.  I’m proudest of their accomplishments.

Q. What teaching methods do you use to engage students?

A. I teach the most interesting material imaginable, recreational therapy, so it is an easy sell. Recreational therapists use recreation and other activities (such as stress management techniques) to help people with illnesses and disabilities gain functional skills. My students are all earnest young people who want to pick up skills that they can use to make the world a better place. Most of my classes are large, so we will spend most of our time in the classroom. However, I try to keep each class moving quickly with a variety of elements including lecture, narrative, in-class activities, guest speakers, technology, humor, and video. The thing I try to accomplish every class is to spread my enthusiasm for a topic to the students. If the students haven’t had a little fun and gained a new insight, then it wasn’t a very good class.

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Elizabeth City State University


Ngozi Oriaku

Ngozi Oriaku is a tenured professor in the Department of Business and Economics where she teaches undergraduate courses in management, international business, and human resource management.  She joined Elizabeth City State University in 1988. With nearly thirty years of teaching experience, Oriaku is very passionate about finding the most effective ways of motivating and sustaining intellectual growth and promoting active learning among the students that register for her classes. She is committed to developing new teaching methodologies and incorporating state of art technologies to ensure that every student can learn and understand course materials. The creative activities in her classroom are well-known among her students. A typical class might be found in team structure, lecture series structure, or project presentation structure. She enhances her teaching styles with classroom discussion forums and the use of blackboard forum management. For Oriaku, her role as educator is about opening hearts and minds, and changing lives for all those involved in the process.

Over the past two decades, Oriaku has served and continues to serve the university in its academic mission and growth. She has been actively involved in the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) accreditation of academic programs, which has reshaped and positioned the Department of Business and Economics and its graduates to be absolutely competitive in today’s marketplace. Oriaku has also served extensively in departmental and university committees, and in community outreach projects. She has served as chairperson of the Department of Marketing and Management and Interim Dean of the School of Business and Economics. In addition to advising students, she has also mentored student organizations such as Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) and the UNC Social Entrepreneurship Team for regional and national competitions with several trophies for first, second, or companionship awards.

With her focus on international business, Oriaku has participated in faculty development activities in several countries, including Indonesia and Thailand. She has conducted professional presentations in many national and international conferences. Her recent research publications focus on the challenges of small businesses in developing countries, the effect of foreign direct investment in developing countries, the impact of podcasts in student learning outcomes, and instructional technologies in classroom.

Oriaku earned a PhD in international affairs and development from Clark Atlanta University, an MS in business management from Norfolk State University, and a BS in business administration from the University of District of Columbia in Washington, DC.

Q. The Teaching Awards were established in 1994 to underscore the importance of teaching and to encourage, identify, recognize, reward, and support good teaching within the University. What does this award mean to you?

A. It is wonderful to be recognized as one of the best teachers at Elizabeth City State University. It also portrays an appreciation of my dedication in my profession. It makes me believe strongly that hard work and determination in any endeavor pays off in the long run.

Q. What was your path into the teaching profession?

A. I started my teaching career at Elizabeth City State University as a lecturer on tenure track. I continued to further my education in order to become an effective teacher, after the completion of my doctoral degree program. I was promoted to the rank of assistant professor, associate professor, and full professor. Over many years in my teaching, research, engagement in community outreach involvements, and several job related training, I was selected to attend the UNC Bridges program on leadership for women in higher education in 2003. This training really shaped and helped me to become an effective teacher. Although, I have contributed tremendously in corporate world as a leader, my exposure also convinced me to train others to become effective leaders.

Q. Besides this award, is there one particular achievement in your career that makes you especially proud?

A. In my career over the years, I have educated many students who became global leaders and productive citizens in their respective careers. For example, some are the Dean of Students Affairs, CEOs of accounting firms, bank managers, CEO of hotels and resort centers, and vice presidents of Human Resources. In addition, I have prepared and coached many students who participated in the outreach projects using soft skills approach to present the projects before corporate executives on free enterprise economy. This has given me tremendous joy and sense of satisfaction.  My relationship with students is not only as a teacher but as a mentor and a friend. Student rapport and interaction with me inside the classroom as the teacher has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of my teaching.

Q. What teaching methods do you use to engage students?

A. One aspect of my teaching methodologies is to help students develop their own critical thinking skills. I believe that transforming students to understand course material and the subject matter are to assign problem-solving cases and real life outreach projects that engage students to take responsibility for their own learning. I am very passionate about finding the most effective ways of motivating and improving intellectual growth among my students.

I use team approaches, lecture series, article reviews, discussion forums, team projects, podcasts and blogs to present course materials. I constantly evaluate my teaching performances by assessing how well I presented my course materials, how students reacted to the course materials, and how to improve my teaching presentations to maintain student focus and interest and these methods have proven successful in the classroom.

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Fayetteville State University

Heather Griffiths of FSU

Heather M. Griffiths

Heather M. Griffiths, an associate professor of sociology, has taught at Fayetteville State University for nine years. During this time, she taught classes in the undergraduate program, the graduate program, the sociology department’s online degree completion program, and the Cumberland International Early College High School.

She teaches sociology using techniques that encourage active learning, such as debating contemporary issues like reproductive rights, the Freddie Gray case, and the global response to the Syrian Civil War. She challenges her students to understand the interplay of race, sex, gender and class by guiding them through discussions that focus on the complexity of multiple perspectives and the lack of easy or simplistic answers to social problems. In 2010, she developed a lower-level sociology course called The Global Society. This very popular course introduces students to pressing worldwide issues, equips them to live and work in a globally interdependent world and encourages them to become responsible global citizens by recognizing their ethic and social responsibilities.

Her students appreciate her hard-work in the classroom.  In one letter of support, a student wrote that, “Her class discussions were thought provoking and forced students to think outside of the box on various social issues and problems. She often interrupted her lecture to ask questions about current and past events, and she utilized popular media and culture to discuss difficult course concepts.  This made learning in her class interesting and relevant.”

Griffiths holds a Bachelor’s degree in sociology and a Bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Millersville University of Pennsylvania. She earned her Master’s degree from the University of Delaware in 2003, and her PhD from the University of Delaware in 2007. In 2006, she began teaching at Fayetteville State University and was promoted to associate professor in 2013.

Q. The Teaching Awards were established in 1994 to underscore the importance of teaching and to encourage, identify, recognize, reward, and support good teaching within the University. What does this award mean to you?

A. Above all, it means that I am doing something right. I teach in a department that is filled with excellent teachers. When I participate in teaching workshops I am surrounded by colleagues who believe in the importance of teaching and the scholarship of teaching and learning — they are making every effort to learn new techniques and improve the student experience at Fayetteville State University. I see how hard they work every day for our students and I am grateful that they view my teaching highly enough to think I deserved a nomination, much less an award.   

Q. What was your path into the teaching profession?

A. I always knew I wanted to be a sociologist, which is unusual because very few people know what sociology is before they take their first course. In the last year of my undergraduate degree program I started applying for jobs, and someone told me I should consider grad school.  I worked two or three jobs at a time to pay for college and I didn’t think I could afford grad school.  I did some research and found out that there were teaching and research assistantships that would help with the cost, so I gave it a try.  My financial situation was dire and I could only find the money to fund one application.  To my very great surprise I was accepted into the program. I really had to roll the dice — I had made it through the first few rounds of eliminations for a statistician job, and I had an interview in Washington D.C. scheduled when I found out that I had been accepted into the University of Delaware with a teaching assistant stipend.

It didn’t take me long to call off the job interview and enter the graduate program — if I remember correctly, the stipend included tuition in addition to a small amount to live on. I wanted to start a career and dig myself out of that college debt, but I wanted to study disasters and deviance even more. I knew that it would not be easy to make it through graduate school, and there were no guarantees, but I was willing to take a gamble because I had come to love higher education and I placed a high value on the freedom to pursue what interested me. By the time I had finished my first year, teaching at a university was my number one career goal.

Q. Besides this award, is there one particular achievement in your career that makes you especially proud?

A. I was fortunate to come across an opportunity to contribute to an experiment — open source introduction to sociology textbook (https://openstaxcollege.org/textbooks/introduction-to-sociology-2e).  I signed on to co-author a few chapters in the first edition, and during the course of writing these chapters, I learned a great deal about the style and structure that worked for a textbook.  Nobody really knew if it would work, or how it would turn out. Before I finished the initial chapters, the coordinators in charge talked with me about doing a few more, then a few more after that — they really loved what I was doing, I really loved the work, and I loved knowing that this textbook would be open source.

A few years later the same group contacted me again to update research and write new material for the second edition.  By the time I finished working on the most recent updates last year I felt that my work had meant something.  I heard that this textbook received a number of awards and is currently in use by hundreds of colleges, and since it is open source, countless students saved money using a textbook that I co-authored. I remember books as one of my biggest expenses, I am in favor of anything that provides a low-cost alternative, and I am proud of being part of that.

Q. What teaching methods do you use to engage students?

 A. I think the most effective teaching strategy I use is to encourage students to question their previous assumptions, review the facts, and develop their own opinions. To this end, I employ active learning strategies. I use popular music in most of my Sociology classes to engage students in discussions about the social construction of race, class, and gender. In my online classes, I emphasize information literacy, because students must develop the ability to sort through conflicting information and arrive at a fact-based conclusion.  When I teach my globalization course, I bring in the real world as much as possible—that means, for example, following the conflict in Syria throughout a semester, bringing in Fulbright students for guest lectures, and encouraging students to become familiar with global social issues through research and debate.

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North Carolina A&T University

Salil S. Desai

Salil S. Desai, an associate professor in the Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering in the College of Engineering, directs the Integrated Nano & Bio Manufacturing Laboratory. He has been a faculty member at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University since 2004. Desai specializes in the areas of multiscale-multiphysics modeling, direct-write technologies, nanoimprint lithography, and combinatorial additive manufacturing with applications in biomedical implants, semiconductor electronics and energy devices.

Desai believes that education is the mission of “igniting the spirit of inquiry to transcend knowledge that benefits humankind.” As an engineering educator, he promotes students’ ability to think analytically and independently using real-life case studies within a collaborative learning environment. He implements a holistic education plan using a variety of pedagogical and assessment strategies that prepares students for life beyond the classroom. Desai has been instrumental in securing educational/research infrastructure and funding of over $5 million from several agencies, including the National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, Department of Education and private industry for developing innovative curricula in the area of advanced manufacturing.  

Desai’s genuine passion for student learning and engineering mentorship is aptly captured by one of his students: “Undoubtedly, Dr. Desai is one of the most introspective, empathetic, and informative instructors that I have worked with throughout my college career, both undergraduate and doctoral.” Another student notes: “Dr. Desai stresses the impact that engineers have on society and how engineering principles and ethics can be applied to life. He is a role model for any profession.” His Department Chairperson, Tonya Smith-Jackson, echoes this theme: “Dr. Desai’s targeted and sustained mentoring of African American students via different programs has led to a steady pipeline of minority engineers who have gone on to careers in industry, academia and national laboratories.” Over the years he has expanded his teaching role beyond the university to disseminate nano-bio technology concepts and ideas to K-12 students and the general public via several outreach programs, including science shows, live exhibit demonstrations and podcasts for the Natural Science Center of Greensboro.

In addition to being recognized for teaching excellence, Desai has been honored with several prestigious awards, including the National Science Foundation CAREER Award and Outstanding Young Investigator Awards from the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, Institute of Industrial Engineers, and the American Society of Engineering Educators. Desai is also the recipient of the Department of Defense and Oak Ridge National Laboratory Young Faculty Awards.  Desai serves as the faculty advisor for the Alpha Pi Mu honor society where he engages students in peer mentoring, community service and volunteer activities. He was chosen for the Triad’s 40 Leaders under 40 Award and the UPS Minority Advancement Award for establishing advanced manufacturing educational programs within the Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina.

Desai received his BS in mechanical engineering from the University of Mumbai in India, MS and PhD in industrial engineering from the University of Pittsburgh.

Q. The Teaching Awards were established in 1994 to underscore the importance of teaching and to encourage, identify, recognize, reward, and support good teaching within the University. What does this award mean to you?

A. This award is a tribute to my students for their dedication toward learning and education. I am thankful to my colleagues for their continuous support and encouragement to achieve this significant milestone. This award exemplifies the fact that educators play a vital influence on student lives by being inspiring role models in all walks of our lives. I am humbled with this honor and cognizant of the fact that it brings along a genuine long-term commitment to teaching and outreach excellence in the coming years.

Q. What was your path into the teaching profession?

A. Ironically, I never thought of academia as my career path; while pursuing my PhD, and wanted to work in an industrial or research setting. In my final year of the doctoral program, my advisor encouraged me to apply for faculty positions. Initially I declined this suggestion; however, I finally decided to apply and see what comes my way. I was called for an interview at North Carolina A&T and decided to take up a faculty position. My first few weeks as a teacher were challenging as I had never taught before. However, with time, I picked up the art of teaching and started enjoying teaching. As they aptly say, “You never know what you can do until you try.” In retrospect, the academic route was one of the best decisions I have made. The academic career gives one the freedom to pursue research and teaching endeavors and the ability to empower others with our work.

Q. Besides this award, is there one particular achievement in your career that makes you especially proud?

A. I was recipient of the National Science Foundation CAREER Award which is awarded to outstanding junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding integration of frontier research and excellent education within the context of the mission of their organizations. As the first awardee of this honor at the North Carolina A&T College of Engineering, I was able to affect positive change in the educational experiences of minority students. This grant award mechanism enabled me to conduct cutting-edge research in the fields of nano-, micro- and bio-manufacturing. The research resulted in a US patent which is being commercialized by our university. This NSF award was pivotal in translating basic scientific discovery into a viable technology with widespread applications.

Q. What teaching methods do you use to engage students?

A. I believe that education is the mission of “igniting the spirit of inquiry to transcend knowledge that benefits humankind.”  As an engineering educator, I promote my students’ ability to think analytically and independently using real-life case studies within a collaborative learning environment. I have employed Concept Mapping as a knowledge-based strategy to bring out information that is maximally relevant to students wherein they gain fundamental understanding of the core concepts in a discipline. To enhance student comprehension I have devised mock models and experiments that replicate complex research infrastructure. In my courses students team up in groups for case studies and projects giving them a glimpse of the collaborative scenarios they would be facing in the workplace. I envision a holistic education plan using a variety of pedagogical and longitudinal assessment strategies which prepares students beyond the classroom.

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North Carolina Central University


Peggy P. Whiting

Peggy P. Whiting, professor and coordinator of the Counselor Education Program within the Department of Allied Professions, joined the faculty of North Carolina Central University in 2006. Whiting states that she views teaching as a privilege, a responsibility, and a calling – an identity she lives with enormous humility. Her teaching style is based upon “the kind of storytelling that rouses the heart and engages motivation for learning.” Dr. Whiting believes that “narratives instruct and give concrete illustrations of the course material given the human story has both diverse and universal components.” Students say that her stories help them own and live the material and construct professional identity. They describe her as possessing “wisdom, grace, passion, and inspiration.”

Whiting believes that student success is linked to student engagement, higher order learning and transformational leadership. Her philosophy of teaching has “the intention of building a community of interactive learners through structure, novelty, passion, safety, and memorable information processing experiences.” She values research-based knowledge, rapport, rigor, relevant learning, and reflective thinking. For Whiting, teaching is linked to influential mentoring and the creation of “an educational holding environment balancing encouragement, support, praise, feedback, challenge, tolerance, and reliability.” She views herself as a teacher who expects for students to instruct and impact her and describes herself as “both a creator and a beneficiary when learning occurs.” Whiting welcomes technological advances as “methods for bridging knowledge into usefulness for diverse learning styles.” 

Under her leadership as coordinator of Counselor Education, NCCU received the 2015 Outstanding Master’s Counselor Education Program Award given by the Southern Association for Counselor Education and Supervision, a 14-state region. NCCU was highlighted for the program’s extensive use of technology, absolute commitment to social and cultural diversity, and development of the nation’s first online career counseling program nationally accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Programs. Whiting was the 2013 recipient of the North Carolina Outstanding Tenured Professor Award given by the North Carolina Association for Counselor Education and Supervision. A colleague said, “Dr. Whiting mentors faculty through quiet, patient actions.”

Whiting is currently serving as an elected member of the board of directors for the international Association for Death Education and Counseling and has consistently researched and published in the areas of grief, crisis, and trauma. She is assisting in the association’s draft of the scope of the body of knowledge required for certification in thanatology globally. Whiting has initiated some of the first graduate counseling courses in thanatology during her teaching career and North Carolina Central University presently has two such classes. She sees the generation of new knowledge as integral to graduate education. Whiting maintains a clinical private practice as a grief counselor and is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor.

Whiting earned her EdD in Human Development Counseling from Vanderbilt University. She received her ME.D. in Counseling and BA in Sociology and Philosophy from the University of West Georgia.

Q. The Teaching Awards were established in 1994 to underscore the importance of teaching and to encourage, identify, recognize, reward, and support good teaching within the University. What does this award mean to you?

A. I am humbled and honored to be identified as a good teacher.  I believe teaching has been undervalued and often misunderstood. I have always believed that teaching is one of the most noble of professions, one that requires a blend of science and art. Teaching is extremely challenging. It requires current content expertise, sound pedagogical practice, and engaging delivery methods for diverse learning styles. I view teaching as a privilege, a responsibility, and a calling. To be identified as having mastery in teaching is the highest compliment I could ever receive. It is a testimony to all the great teachers who previously instructed and mentored me.

Q. What was your path into the teaching profession?

A. It is difficult to extract what I chose, from what I was encouraged to choose, and what chose me.  This confluence led me toward counseling and education.

Education is one of the highest values expressed by family, and I was encouraged by my parents to learn all I could. My developmental journey was guided by their emphasis on lifelong learning, service to others, and formal education. One of my earliest memories is of an incident when my mother confronted me for consistently challenging my younger sister as we “played school.” By the time our mother intervened in these sessions, I had inflicted some damage on my sister’s perception of education as a desirable venture and on her subjective view of herself as capable of student success!  Fortunately for me, my parents modeled the best of education in their response to my teaching. Their example of constructive instruction formed the foundation for a more mature teaching philosophy and practice later in my life.  

I committed to being a lifelong learner when I chose to become a teacher. I entered academic life in 1986 and have watched shifts in best practice and contemporary policy in counseling as outcome research, new knowledge, mental health policy, educational reform, and politics converged.  I feel an ethical responsibility to be informed, to stay abreast, and to participate as a teacher and as a student.  My eventual career choice of counselor education was certainly my independent decision but was invaluably molded by adults who believed in the power of learning.  

Q. Besides this award, is there one particular achievement in your career that makes you especially proud?

A. I serve as the coordinator of Counselor Education at North Carolina Central University and have witnessed the program’s expansion and excellence. NCCU received the 2015 Outstanding Master’s Counselor Education Program Award from the Southern Association for Counselor Education and Supervision, a 14-state region. NCCU was highlighted for the program’s extensive use of technology, absolute commitment to social and cultural diversity, and development of the nation’s first online career-counseling program nationally accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Programs. The collective work of my team makes me especially proud.

Additionally, I have been successful in incorporating a required graduate course in crisis, trauma, and grief counseling at all three institutions where I have served since 1986. Traditionally, this has not been a part of the typical counselor education or clinical programming. I am especially proud that I could be one of the first counselor educators to create a legitimate place for this subject. Students from multiple disciplines have gravitated toward this class. NCCU now has one required and one elective class on this topic, and I am appreciative of the administrators who allowed me to implement these courses.     

Q. What teaching methods do you use to engage students?

A. My belief is that the transmission of knowledge occurs in relationship and in the lesson’s relevance to human life.  A great amount of my teaching is through storytelling, the kind that rouses the heart and engages the student with motivation to learn. Of course, this is based upon the notion that the human story has both diverse and universal components. Narratives instruct, and I use them as concrete illustrations of the material. Particularly in the field of counseling, the ability to understand both differences and commonalities promotes empathy.

My assignments tend to be focused on helping students becoming reflective practitioners. I use case studies and expect evidence-based and theoretically grounded practice to be demonstrated by my students. I welcome the latest technological advances as methods for transforming knowledge into usefulness. Presently, I augment each class with Blackboard system tools, including discussion boards, podcasts, videos, webinars, and PowerPoint presentations.

I like to implement multiple methodologies in my classroom in order to reach visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners. Students are asked to work in small teams, to create visual presentations suitable for poster sessions at professional conferences, and to enter journal reflections about their field-based learning. I learn on a consistent basis from my students. I look for them to instruct and impact me. I adjust my classroom as I learn from their suggestions. I allow their narratives to expand mine. And, if I am lucky, learning occurs.  I am both a creator and a beneficiary when it does.  When learning seems remote and stuck, I attempt to reflect upon what went awry. Always, I am humbled by the mysterious nature of teaching and learning.

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North Carolina State University

Jeffrey A. Joines

Jeffrey A. Joines, associate professor and associate department head of undergraduate studies in the Department of Textile Engineering, Chemistry and Science, joined the faculty of North Carolina State University in 2000.

Joines, honored in 2012 as an NC State Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor, is passionate about teaching and creating the best environments to foster student learning. His teaching philosophy is rooted in the belief that a teacher must have passion for his or her subject and must create active learning environments emphasizing “real-world” experiences that will challenge students to reach new levels of success.

Armed with an unfailing enthusiasm for his subject matter and the faith that students, when properly motivated, will embrace the opportunity to learn and engage with each other, Joines provides students the freedom to collaboratively test their creative skills to solve real-world problems. To facilitate his students’ success, Joines not only has designed new classes that have become a cornerstone of the textiles engineering curriculum, but also has implemented a new classroom design with reconfigurable pie-shaped desks and computer monitors on all sides, allowing faculty and students to more easily engage with each other. 

It is not surprising, given this commitment to his students that Joines continues to engage with and encourage students beyond the classroom and after graduation. As just one example, a former student thanked Joines for helping him to master supply chain modeling and problem-solving, and that the company with whom he had a summer internship considered him a “superstar,” offered him a permanent position. 

Jon Rust, colleague and former head of the Department of Textile Engineering, Chemistry and Science, praises Joines as “exceptionally gifted in his ability to lead effective learning in the classroom” and for his “keen sense of interest in demonstrating through verifiable assessment practices what really works best for students’ long-term professional development.” A recent survey of textile engineering alumni attests to Joines’ impact beyond the classroom. Eighty-four percent of respondents stated that Computer-Based Modeling for Engineers (TE/ISE 110), a course he co-created with College of Engineering colleague Steve Roberts, made a significant difference in their careers.

In addition to teaching undergraduate and graduate classes, mentoring students and designing courses, Joines believes that serving on teaching-related committees is essential for realizing continuous improvement in curricula and in student learning outcomes. For the past three years, he chaired NC State’s Evaluation of Teaching Committee. This group developed a template to ensure more consistency in peer reviews of teaching and created educational materials for all faculty on the use of mid-semester student evaluations as a way to enhance teaching practices. Joines currently serves on the university-wide Council of Undergraduate Education and chairs the course and curriculum committee of the Department of Textile Engineering, Chemistry and Science. 

Joines earned a BS in electrical engineering and a BS in industrial engineering (1990), a MS in industrial engineering (1993) and a PhD in industrial engineering (1996), all from North Carolina State University.

Q. The Teaching Awards were established in 1994 to underscore the importance of teaching and to encourage, identify, recognize, reward, and support good teaching within the University. What does this award mean to you?

A. I’m humbled to be recognized as a top teacher because teaching is a passion for me and it means a lot to be recognized by my peers. I’m also humbled as I look at the list of people who have won in the past and at the other teachers who are being honored this year. There’s a quote by John Podojil that I keep taped to my computer. It says: “Teaching is not a profession; it’s a passion. Without passion for your subject and a desire for your students to learn and be the best in the world, then we have failed as a teacher and failure is not an option.” That’s what teaching means to me. I’m thrilled that NC State and the university system share that passion.

Q. What was your path into teaching?

A. During my undergraduate years, while I was earning degrees in electrical engineering and industrial engineering at NC State, I had internships at IBM. They kept making me job offers, but I kept putting them off. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I went on and got my master’s and Ph.D. in industrial engineering. One of my professors, Russell E. King, encouraged me to teach. He said, “Jeff, you’re really good at it. You know how to take complicated subjects and help students understand them.” I also had teaching in my blood. My mom was a seventh grade English teacher, so I got my passion for teaching from her.

Q. Besides this award, is there one particular achievement in your career that makes you especially proud?

A. About 12 years ago, our students in textile engineering were required to take a class in C++ in the computer science department. They never used it; it was just a box they had to check off. At the time I was working with companies to help them solve real-world problems, and I was doing a lot of data manipulation in Excel using Visual Basic. I realized that this was a skill that our students needed. So I worked with the industrial engineering department to create a class called TE110, Computer-Based Modeling with Excel and Visual Basic. The class teaches students to use data to make better decisions and to build decision support systems. When we did a survey of our recent alumni a couple of years ago, 84 percent said that class made a difference in their careers by giving them a skill set that allowed them to be very successful. For me, that’s a pretty big achievement.

Q. What teaching methods do you use to engage students?

A. It’s all about active learning or inquiry guided learning. I often use computer simulations with real data that the students collect themselves. I might have them roll toy cars across a piece of paper or shoot marbles with little catapults – anything that helps them visualize complex principles such as statistical variance and tolerance parameters.

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University of North Carolina at Asheville


Sally Wasileski

Sally Wasileski, associate professor of chemistry, describes teaching as her “career, hobby, and passion” and evidence of this deep commitment to student learning is abundantly clear. During her 11 years in the Department of Chemistry at UNC Asheville, Wasileski has proved herself as a dedicated and enthusiastic teacher who thoughtfully organizes her courses and out-of-class activities to maximize student learning.

In the classroom, Wasileski offers students a dynamic pedagogy, a commitment to civic engagement, and a contagious enthusiasm for chemistry. She is committed to the learning of all students, whether they be chemistry majors or non-science majors. One of Wasileski’s signature courses is Food of Chemistry, in which students learn the essential chemistry curriculum through an innovative approach that utilizes food and cooking in all course demonstrations and labs. Students conduct experiments with real world consequences such as measuring the sodium content of foods served on campus, thus learning chemistry in a way that is exceptionally more accessible than a traditional lab setting. One of Wasileski’s students from this class commented that she “has a gift when it comes to explaining complex ideas so everyone can understand” while another noted that she “creates a fun learning environment” and “makes me eager to learn.”

Wasileski’s commitment to student learning also extends to students outside of chemistry through her work on curricular developments that enhance the interdisciplinary liberal arts mission at UNC Asheville. As founding member of a faculty collective teaching students about food from several disciplinary perspectives, she spearheaded efforts to craft projects where students from multiple courses learn together and teach each other the content of their respective courses. Each year, dozens of students who have never stepped foot in a chemistry classroom thus learn chemistry due to Wasileski’s commitment to making science accessible for everyone.

Wasileski’s students also benefit from her commitment to undergraduate research. The rigorous research opportunities she provides her students include community-based projects that stretch the impact of her teaching into the larger Asheville community.

Wasileski directs the Chemistry Scholars program, a National Science Foundation-funded program that provides scholarships for students interested in chemistry. Wasileski is the primary investigator on this project, which has yielded a more than 170 percent increase in the number of chemistry majors since its inception in 2011. 

Wasileski mentors high school students and regularly conducts chemistry demonstrations to school and community groups, thus amplifying the impact of her teaching to those in the broader Asheville area.

Wasileski has previously been recognized as winner of the UNC Asheville’s Award for Teaching Excellence in the Natural Sciences and as a Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities Leadership Fellow. With several colleagues, she was awarded the William E. Bennett Award for Extraordinary Contributions to Citizen Science for her work integrating STEM and non-STEM courses.

Wasileski earned a PhD in chemistry from Purdue University and a BS with honors in chemistry from Juniata College.

Q. The Teaching Awards were established in 1994 to underscore the importance of teaching and to encourage, identify, recognize, reward, and support good teaching within the University. What does this award mean to you?

A. Being selected for the BOG Award for Excellence in teaching has been a tremendous honor.  It is even more special to be selected by my faculty peers because I am surrounded by truly superb teachers at UNC Asheville.  I have learned so much from my colleagues, who are always willing to help one another be better teachers.

Q. What was your path into teaching?

A. Since childhood I wanted to be a teacher, but I never understood how until I was a student at Juniata College, a liberal arts college in Pennsylvania. Living and learning in an undergraduate liberal arts environment, learning how to think and solve problems, both in my major chemistry but also in many other ways and disciplines, and engaging in chemistry research under my mentor, Dr. Tom Fisher, was an experience that transformed me as a person and as a scientist. I knew then that I wanted to be that mentor, and help others grow to be scientists in this manner. And at UNC Asheville, UNC’s public liberal arts institution, with our long history and strong commitment to undergraduate research, I get to work closely with students every day as they grow into scientists. It is amazing.

Q. Besides this award, is there one particular achievement in your career that makes you especially proud?

A. The most important work of my career has been creating the Chemistry Scholars Program at UNC Asheville, because of the tremendous impact it has had on our students, faculty and university. This program began in 2011 and provides scholarships for academically-talented students with financial need to be chemistry majors at UNC Asheville and is funded through $1.2 million in grants from the National Science Foundation and another $300,000 from UNC Asheville. More than just scholarships, we created a student-support structure for all chemistry majors, which includes creating a learning community of chemistry majors, mentoring programs, research fellowships, seminars and field trips.  Implementation has been a team effort of chemistry faculty and we have seen many successes – most notably a near doubling of chemistry graduates, an increase well above the number of scholarships. The Chemistry Scholars Program has strengthened the community in our department – which we describe as family – and highlights the importance of our work as teachers outside the classroom. I am awed watching our chemistry students, many of which are the first in their family to go to college, grow into scientists.  And they are not just prepared, they are securing jobs in chemical industry and admissions to top graduate, medical and pharmacy schools after graduation. I’m a proud mother!

Q. What teaching methods do you use to engage students?

A. I teach courses in chemical analysis and instrumentation, introductory chemistry, and for non-science majors to develop science literacy.  All involve active learning, but I use a variety of methods depending on the class. For General Chemistry, I use a flipped approach so that in-class time is helping students solve problems. In Food of Chemistry, chemical principles are tied to food and cooking, bringing chemistry into students’ everyday lives. We have cooking labs, demonstrations, and projects with non-chemistry classes to link science to other areas. In laboratory courses, my students learn analytical chemistry by doing analytical chemistry through research projects. And one-on-one mentored research is my best teaching, as students and I work together to understand the catalytic reaction mechanisms for producing alternative fuels. Teaching through research is a big part of how our students not just learn chemistry, but become chemists at UNC Asheville.

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University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Michael Crimmins

Michael Crimmins has made exceptional contributions to teaching throughout his 34-year career at UNC-Chapel Hill, and his current activities in chemistry and around campus are overwhelming in their breadth and impact. He is a beloved instructor in both large and small class settings, as well as in both graduate and undergraduate courses – especially impressive since he teaches the more typically dreaded organic chemistry course.

Crimmins utilizes numerous multimedia innovations and new educational methods in the classroom, and his passion for chemical content and his inspirational teaching methods have motivated students to achieve mastery levels beyond their wildest expectations. He consistently scores enviable marks in student reviews while maintaining commendable standards of excellence. Furthermore, he has provided exceptional leadership in the implementation of innovative educational methods for the entire College of Arts and Sciences. Throughout his career Crimmins has excelled as a graduate mentor and classroom instructor, but recently has made extraordinary strides in educational innovation.

Students attest to the learning environment created by Crimmins, especially for courses that cause most students fear and anxiety: “This previously intimidating course made me shake in my boots but I would retake this class with this teacher 100 times over” and “I have really enjoyed this class and am very glad that my fear of taking organic chemistry turned into a positive, successful experience”. Another student notes: “Dr. Crimmins has cultivated an environment that is extremely conducive to learning and is the most knowledgeable and caring professor. He is an expert at chemistry, but also at teaching.” His impact is inspirational with quotes such as “I wish that Dr. Crimmins taught every single class at UNC; if he did, I would probably become a chemistry professor.”

During peer observations, one can see his passion for teaching and the students. He chats with students before class and even sat on the steps besides students groups as he helped walk them through the problems posed during class. He makes student think by showing them the process and using the process in a variety of formats. Students were engaged — no laptops present and a stream of “clicker” questions. A room of 200-plus students was full of noise talking about organic chemistry. 

Crimmins earned his BA with honors from Hendrix College in 1976, and his PhD from Duke University in 1980.

Q. The Teaching Awards were established in 1994 to underscore the importance of teaching and to encourage, identify, recognize, reward, and support good teaching within the University. What does this award mean to you?

A. It is a great honor to be recognized with the BOG Excellence in Teaching Award and it is extremely rewarding to have my efforts to improve teaching of undergraduate science courses validated by this award. This award is particularly satisfying because it rewards outstanding teaching over an extended period of time.

Q. What was your path into teaching?

A. Careers are often defined by major events and milestones that are highly influential to an individual.  For me it was a long series of small events and opportunities that eventually led me to a career in academia.  I went from my undergraduate degree to graduate school to a postdoctoral appointment in a fairly seamless way.  During my postdoctoral studies I made the decision to embark, at least initially on an academic career because it provide me with the opportunity to conduct my own research and to explore whether teaching was something I enjoyed.  I landed a position at UNC-Chapel Hill and have been there my entire career.

Q. Besides this award, is there one particular achievement in your career that makes you especially proud?

A. Besides this award, the accomplishment that I am most proud of is the mentoring of more than 50 graduate students to the completion of their PhD degrees.  Watching and helping a student develop into an independent scientist is a a very rewarding process and I have been fortunate to have some extremely talented students to work with during my career.  I am very proud of all their scientific accomplishments and successful careers.

Q. What teaching methods do you use to engage students?

A. I utilize high structure active learning techniques in the classroom to engage my students.  They are required to come to class with some understanding of the material, which allows us to do much more sophisticated problem solving in the class rather than just fairly simple information transfer.  I have found that students respond very well to these techniques and engage each other through peer instruction as they discuss and solve the problems together in class. Having students engage the material before class, during class and then after class with additional problem solving helps them break down and connect difficult concepts ultimately making the material more tractable for them.

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University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Stanley Schneider

As a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, Stanley Schneider wants to change the way students think about and live on this earth.  “I want them to experience awe and a sense of privilege and responsibility for living on this planet.” Schneider’s passion for animal behavior, social insects (especially honey bees), and the evolution of social behavior is infectious and his students thrive under his guidance.

According to Schneider, teaching is a social interaction.  It is the contagious enthusiasm of the teacher that captures students’ imagination and helps them dream. Excellent teachers are rigorous, fair, and demonstrate respect for students by holding them to high standards of performance by providing clear, organized, and relevant lectures. Importantly, Schneider firmly believes that active participation by students in the learning process is central to inquiry-based learning. To this end, his living legacy at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte is his excellence in integrating his teaching and research in the classroom.  For Professor Schneider, exposure to the process of conducting research is the primary means by which students learn how new information is generated and synthesized into an existing body of knowledge. Since joining the UNC Charlotte faculty in 1985, Schneider has worked with approximately 140 graduate and undergraduate students through individualized instruction, many of whom have gone on to become productive biologists, teachers, researchers, and entrepreneurs.  

Because of his research on honey bees, Schneider frequently is invited to give talks to beekeeping associations, gardening clubs, and birding clubs. Given the worldwide decline of pollinators, he sees these talks as one of the most important public services he can provide. His years of teaching undergraduates have taught him how to engage and motivate audiences and, therefore his public speaking is a direct consequence of his teaching experience. 

Throughout his career, as principle investigator or co-principle investigator, Schneider has been awarded five major grants totaling more than $1 million dedicated to support undergraduate student research participation and training. He was a National Academies Education Fellow in the Life Sciences and attended the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Summer Institute for Scientific Teaching. Because of his outstanding ability to integrate teaching and research, 

Schneider was inaugural recipient of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Award for the Integration of Undergraduate Teaching and Research in 2014.

Schneider earned his PhD in Animal Behavior from the University of California, Davis. He earned an MS in zoology and BS in education from Southwest Texas State University and has been a faculty member since 1985.

Q. The Teaching Awards were established in 1994 to underscore the importance of teaching and to encourage, identify, recognize, reward, and support good teaching within the University. What does this award mean to you?

A. It is the greatest honor I have received in my career. 

Q. What was your path into teaching?

A. I have wanted to be a teacher since I was in second grade. Teaching has been my only career choice for as long as I can remember. 

Q. Besides this award, is there one particular achievement in your career that makes you especially proud?

A. The achievements I am most proud of come from my work with training undergraduate Honors students. I have served as the major advisor for a total of 17 Honors students during my 31 years at UNC Charlotte, and these are among the best and brightest people I have met. It has been an enormous privilege to be able to work with such gifted individuals and to be allowed to enter their lives for a brief time.  

Q. What teaching methods do you use to engage students?

A. When teaching in the biological sciences, it is essential to integrate research into the teaching experience, so students understand how scientific knowledge is generated and how science is conducted. It is also important for the instructor to have a sense of wonder and excitement about the natural world. Teaching is a social interaction and the instructor’s enthusiasm is what most inspires students to pursue their own dreams.

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University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Gregory Price Grieve

In his thirteen years at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Gregory Grieve has made an indelible mark in teaching, research, and service. Professor Grieve is a highly productive and respected researcher, a former Lloyds’s International Honors College fellow (2008) and was selected as a Lloyds’s International Honors College Chancellor’s fellow (2015).

Religion is a challenging subject to teach. Discussions and discourse of religion are usually avoided in polite company, and yet, religion remains a topic of utmost importance in modern society. It is a topic that both binds and divides people; it is the source of conflict, yet it is a reason for peace. Grieve’s goal is to bring a student to a level of understanding from Ricoeur’s first naïveté, ‘the practice of one’s religion’ to Ricoeur’s second naïveté, ‘the critical evaluation and discussion of religion as a scholarly topic in the context of society and history.’ His goal is not to turn people away from religion, but to have students think more deeply about their own beliefs and understand the implications that other faith systems have on the world around them. Because of this, his students are better prepared to navigate an ever growing and complex multicultural world. 

In each and every course, Grieve merges humor, enthusiasm and scholarship into his teaching as he constantly emphasizes critical thinking which “develops their power to perceive the way they exist in the world with which and in which they find themselves. Through critically thinking about religion, media, and popular culture students come to see the world not as a static reality, but as a reality in process, in transformation.” Grieve is a leader in the application of digital technologies to religion studies. Professor Grieve has embraced the potential that social media and gaming technology have in facilitating a student’s exploration of new perspectives on religion. In his courses popular video games, such as Shyrim, have become powerful tools for a technology savvy generation to develop their critical thinking skills and place religion and religious discourse into their own ethos. “Why think, write and create digital products about religion media and popular culture? While not always easy to think about critically, its study helps students map contemporary life. It allows them to understand what cultural texts and ideas build our society, and aids in seeing the forces that threaten, as well as those that enable responsible human communities.” 

Professor Grieve received his BA in media studies, summa cum laude, from San Francisco State (1987); his master’s degrees in general studies of humanities (1993) and in the history of religions in (1994) from the University of Chicago, and his doctoral degree in the history of religions from the same institution in 2002. He joined the University of North Carolina at Greensboro as an assistant professor in 2002 and was tenured and promoted to associate professor in 2008 and is head of the Religious Studies Department. Grieve also is a founding member of the International Academy for the Study of Religion and Digital Games.

Q. The Teaching Awards were established in 1994 to underscore the importance of teaching and to encourage, identify, recognize, reward, and support good teaching within the University. What does this award mean to you?

A. Being awarded the Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching has given me a profound sense of responsibility. North Carolina’s constitution states that “[r]eligion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools, libraries, and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” Higher education is not a luxury for the few, but a core North Carolina value that ought to be available readily and affordably to all residents of every background and ZIP code.

Q. What was your path into the teaching profession?

A. It was in my first year of college that I decided to become a professor. After all the trouble I caused them, my elementary school teachers would laugh to find that I have become an educator. I have always been intensely curious, but as a child often found school a needless distraction from real discovery. In college, however, I was introduced to professors who cultivated my curiosity and creativity rather than attempting to tame it. For the first time in my life, caring, knowledgeable faculty inspired me, and I saw school not as a set of arbitrary rules, but as an intellectual feast.  

Q. Besides this award, is there one particular achievement in your career that makes you especially proud?

A. I greatly value being honored by my peers, the University and the Board of Governors. Yet, “proud” is a devious, even dangerous, concept because it leads away from what has made for an authentic and meaningful career. Obstacles are part of any career, and it is the struggle of overcoming obstacles that has ultimately formed me. Struggle cannot be avoided. Yet, in the end, struggle is the greatest blessing and is what has made me a patient, sensitive teacher.

Q. What teaching methods do you use to engage students?

A. A college education is about making a life as well as making a living. With the spread of the Internet and social media, and the disruption of many traditional livelihoods, to simply be human seems to have become more difficult. Luckily, we are not the first people in history to face such issues, and the past bequeaths a treasure trove of time-tested methods for flourishing. My area of expertise is religion in popular culture. Because religion is where people describe their highest values, religion plays a crucial role in understanding what it means to be human. Many look for the essence of humanity in high art. I want students to see the humanity in themselves. And I want them to critically look at popular culture.

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University of North Carolina at Pembroke

Steven Bourquin

In the twelve years that Steven Bourquin has been at UNC Pembroke, he has established a reputation for teaching mathematics to our students unmatched by any other faculty member. He has received the UNCP Outstanding Teaching Award twice since assuming his position in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science.  

Bourquin has taught a wide range of courses in mathematics at UNCP. His teaching philosophy aims at awakening what he believes is a natural desire for the “mathematical perspective” in all students.  This philosophy is demonstrated in a natural ability to stimulate interest in math especially statistics in the classroom. He succeeds in rendering the abstract conceptual nature of statistical methods easily understandable for undergraduate students. His successes, therefore, are heightened by the fact that large numbers of UNCP students are among the first in their families to attend college. 

His courses employ many hands-on examples to provide the skills to solve problems. According to Bourquin’s teaching philosophy, all of the concepts taught in his courses center on the idea that “mathematics is a participation sport.” Therefore, Bourquin encourages generous interaction and discussion among students, and he uses the entire class when teaching. In his words, he tries to “exceed their needs in the process of learning mathematics.” His dissertation centered on math anxiety and math self-efficacy in performance. His findings indicated the need to reduce math anxiety and empower students by increasing their math self-efficacy to augment math performance. And that is what he does in the classroom.

Bourquin’s work in the classroom extends beyond the confines of UNCP. His students, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college, work in local schools as teachers. He has indirect roots in this predominantly rural Native American community through the service and work his students are doing to cultivate new generations of college students; something our current Chancellor, Robin Cummings, has placed as one of the top priorities for his administration. Bourquin is carrying out the goal of the Chancellor to make UNCP a national leader in American Indian scholarship, teaching and research in preparing UNCP students for the future.

Bourquin has over 25 years of teaching experience in higher education. He received his Bachelor of Science in engineering, Master of Science in mathematics, and Doctor of Philosophy in administration in higher education from Ohio University. Bourquin has been in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science since 2003. He has been the Chair of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science since 2007.

Q. The Teaching Awards were established in 1994 to underscore the importance of teaching and to encourage, identify, recognize, reward, and support good teaching within the University. What does this award mean to you? 

A. UNC Pembroke is blessed to have a large number of outstanding professors on campus.  I am humbled and honored to receive this award.  This year is the first time since inception that the BOG Award for Excellence in Teaching has been presented to a faculty member in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at UNCP.  I am pleased to accept this award on behalf of the outstanding faculty members in the department.  Each faculty member in the department is fully committed to providing our students with the best classroom instruction and I am honored to represent them. 

Q. What was your path into teaching? 

A. I am a first-generation college student from a small town located in Louisville, Ohio.  My primary goal in high school was to use every means necessary to go to college and receive a degree in engineering.  I utilized my talents in football and mathematics to achieve academic and athletic scholarships to complete a degree in electrical engineering from Ohio University in 1988. It wasn’t until I attended graduate school at Ohio University at the age of 23 that my entire focus turned from engineering to teaching mathematics. After teaching one section of college algebra during my first quarter of graduate school as a teaching associate, I knew that my passion was to become a college professor and teach mathematics providing opportunities for other students to achieve their academic goals. I am grateful every day of my life for the change in career path I chose in 1988. 

Q. Besides this award, is there one particular achievement in your career that makes you especially proud? 

A. Chairing the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science for the past 10 years and working with first-generation college students to obtain their academic goals and dreams is the achievement that brings me the most joy.  In 2012, I was inducted to The Louisville High School Athletic Hall of Fame.  The Board of Governors Award combined with the High School Hall of Fame induction reminds me of how I was able to utilize my passion for mathematics and football to work my way through college and be at this point in my career.  I know if my parents were still living, they would be very proud of my efforts to help other students achieve their academic goals and dreams.  My father passed away in 2008 from cancer and my mother passed away from ALS in 2012.  My parents always believed in me and I am grateful to them for showing me how to be a service leader. 

Q. What teaching methods do you use to engage students?

A. The topic of my dissertation studies the effects of math anxiety and math self-efficacy on math performance.  In teaching mathematics, it is imperative to decrease math anxiety while increasing math self-efficacy.  For these reasons, I try to create a friendly environment for learning and an atmosphere of trust and respect between the students and myself. “Learning is personal” and I keep this in mind while making an honest effort to know all of my students by their first names and showing an interest in their college careers both in and out of the classroom.  This often provides the students with a feeling of importance and comfort in the classroom.  In addition, my personal interest creates an environment that encourages interaction between the students and me in the classroom and in my office.  I want my students to feel comfortable enough to question me about any aspect of the material, regardless if it is thought to be a “stupid” question about basic arithmetic or it involves more complex issues.  I have an open door policy; students consult with me often on coursework as well as on non-class issues.  I take great pride in this; they feel they can come to me with rather serious situations that may or may not be related to mathematics. To me, the most important component to being a good teacher is forming a positive relationship with every student in my class.

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University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Sridhar Varadarajan

Sridhar Varadarajan, associate professor of chemistry in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, joined the faculty at UNC Wilmington in 2003 and teaches a wide variety of courses at the undergraduate and graduate level.

The recipient of a UNCW Chancellor’s Teaching Excellence Award, a Distinguished Teaching Professorship Award, and a Discere Aude mentoring award, Varadarajan is a gifted teacher, scholar, and mentor.  But teaching was not the career he intended until his post-doctoral advisors and his wife advised him to consider it.  After teaching his first class at UNCW he “knew that [he] had made the best decision of [his] career.”  More than 12 years later he states: “My excitement and enthusiasm for my interactions with students has only grown over these years.  I believe that I am making more of a difference now than I ever could have if I had followed my initial ambition to work in the pharmaceutical industry.”

Of his approach to teaching he writes: “Inspire! This single word has been my guiding principle for all that I do with students. It is the goal that gets me excited at the beginning of each semester. It is the yardstick by which I evaluate my performance at the end of each semester: How many students did I inspire this semester? How many students did I convince to reach higher, and achieve more than they thought was possible?”

His success is undeniable.  All past master’s graduates from his laboratory are either currently pursuing Ph.D. degrees at prestigious institutions, or are gainfully employed in the chemical/pharmaceutical industry.  The majority of undergraduate students who worked in his laboratory — more than 30, including four African-American students, and 19 women — are currently working in the chemical industry, or went on to graduate, medical, dental, or pharmacy school. Two are teachers.

A former student writes:  “Dr. Varadarajan has a gift for making complex teaching material understandable. He is dedicated to seeing his students succeed and always makes time to discuss subject matter issues even outside of office hours. Working in his lab as an undergrad student was one of the best experiences in my life.”  Another, currently pursuing a Ph.D. in pharmaceutical science, writes:  “He has taught me lifelong lessons, not just about education, but also about family and responsibilities, about building relationships that last, as well as building a team with the same goals, no matter their personal differences.”  

A colleague writes:  “The students flock to his courses and love his lectures. This is the more remarkable as organic chemistry is usually among the courses most dreaded by the students at the outset.”  Another writes that he “has a gift for getting students excited about research, working hard and sharing their excitement and knowledge with others.”

Varadarajan earned a BS in chemistry at Bombay University, a BS in chemical technology at Bombay University and a PhD in physical organic chemistry at The Pennsylvania State University.

Q. The Teaching Awards were established in 1994 to underscore the importance of teaching and to encourage, identify, recognize, reward, and support good teaching within the University. What does this award mean to you?

A. I think that this award indicates that I have had some success in influencing the career path of students, and in helping them succeed, since being nominated for this award is a reflection of students’ opinion. However, I do not think that I am the “top instructor” at my institution – so many of my colleagues work tirelessly to help students achieve their full potential, and I still have a lot to learn from them.

Q. What was your path into teaching?

A. An academic career was not on my radar at all when I was a graduate student. In fact, just one year before I joined UNCW, I had not even considered it as an option. I was in the process of seeking a job in the pharmaceutical industry at that time. But my postdoctoral advisors and my wife kept insisting that I was better-suited for academia than industry. So, just to please them, I sent out a few applications to different universities, and was surprised by the strong response I got. I interviewed at UNCW, got excited by what I saw, and accepted their offer. When I walked out after teaching my first class, I knew I had made an excellent decision.

Q. Besides this award, is there one particular achievement in your career that makes you especially proud?

A. I always feel great pride every time a student whom I have taught/trained goes on to become successful. I have been lucky to have had several such outcomes. One particular student, who had not been doing well academically, joined my laboratory to participate in an undergraduate research project, and was transformed into an excited and engaged student. This student then returned to my laboratory as a graduate student, excelled in graduate school, and is now having a very successful career in the pharmaceutical industry. The knowledge that I can have this kind of influence on a student keeps me determined to do my best each semester.

Q. What teaching methods do you use to engage students?

A. I believe strongly in challenging students to achieve their best, and encouraging them to take responsibility for their own learning. The subject material for my courses, all revolving around organic chemistry, is built upon logic and understanding, and therefore I invest a lot of time in devising methods of teaching that ensure student comprehension, and encourage problem solving in the classroom. Students today face many challenges on the social, health and financial fronts, and these often influence their ability to succeed in school. Therefore, I always encourage students to meet me outside the classroom early and often, to head off any problems early in the semester, in order to ensure success in the classroom.

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University of North Carolina School of the Arts


Dale M. Pollock

Dale M. Pollock serves as associate professor in the School of Filmmaking at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where he has served on the faculty since 2006. He also is the inaugural recipient of the Dale M. Pollock Endowed Chair, and holds the position of Distinguished Scholar. Prior to joining the faculty, Pollock was dean of the School of Filmmaking for seven years.

In his Philosophy of Teaching statement, Pollock describes his current role as a faculty member as “the most satisfying and gratifying of my near 50-year career.” He brings a phenomenal breadth and depth of information to the classroom, and strives to give his students examples of effective moviemaking from the past 120 years, in order to “inspire them to reach higher in their own content creation in the 21st century.” 

Pollock’s pedagogical approach has clearly resonated with his students. One nominator spoke to this, stating that “Mr. Pollock is a passionate teacher with a vast amount of experience and knowledge. He engaged sophisticated class discussions that opened students’ eyes to successful filmmaking techniques.” Pollock also commits substantial time to one-on-one mentorship of students, far beyond what is simply customary or required. A student spoke of the impact this approach has had on their development. “In my first year of college, I remember being overwhelmed and constantly doubting my actions. Mr. Pollock approached me and said that if I ever needed help with anything, I could stop by his office. Without thinking of it twice, I met with him, and it became a weekly meeting that has lasted three years.” 

Colleagues on the faculty hold Pollock in the highest regard. One individual wrote a compelling letter of nomination touching on just a few of the reasons why this is the case. “Mr. Pollock is an invaluable resource, and he is unfailingly generous with his time, his support, and his feedback. I have had him as a guest in my courses on multiple occasions, as have many of my colleagues. I am continually impressed with his energy, his enthusiasm, and his extensive knowledge.” 

Pollock is the author of Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas, currently in its fourth printing, with over 100,000 copies sold. He has had articles published in Esquire, GQ, People, Life, and Rolling Stone. He is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Producers Branch, the Producers Guild of America, the Writers Guild of America, and the Governor’s Task Force on Film. Prior to joining the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Mr. Pollock was co-Founder and co-chairman of the Producing Program at the American Film Institute. 

Pollock holds an MS in communications from San Jose State University and a BA in anthropology from Brandeis University. He also completed the Management Development Program in the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2004.

Q. The Teaching Awards were established in 1994 to underscore the importance of teaching and to encourage, identify, recognize, reward, and support good teaching within the University. What does this award mean to you?

A. The most meaningful aspect of this award to me is that it originates with students and faculty in my school. I invest a great deal of time and energy in my interactions with my students, both in and out of the classroom. I also try to share best practices in my teaching with my colleagues, and to refer interested students to them for mentoring in their particular craft. I am humbled by the number of students and faculty who nominated me for this award, and I hope to justify their confidence in me with evolving improvements to my teaching.

Q. What was your path into teaching?

A. My path to teaching was a circuitous one, although now that I look back on it, much of my professional work led me to teaching those skills in various ways. I first taught as a substitute teacher in Boston just after graduating college, and I remember feeling terrified in the classroom. It wasn’t until I began sharing my history and skills as a feature film producer with graduate students at the University of Southern California that I realized that teaching energized and animated me. When I co-founded and taught in the Producing Program at the American Film Institute, I woke up to the fact that teaching had become more important to me than producing. I came to UNCSA to be a dean, but more importantly, to embrace teaching as my new career choice, and I have never looked back.

Q. Besides this award, is there one particular achievement in your career that makes you especially proud?

A. I grew up loving movies, and always dreamed of winning an Academy Award for whatever contribution my talent could provide.  I never achieved that goal, but I was invited by my peers to join the Producers Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1994, and I have been a member ever since.  It’s a reflection on the quality of the work I did producing 13 feature films, since I never had a huge box office success. Recognition from my peers has always been meaningful to me, as it is with the Teaching in Excellence Award.

Q. What teaching methods do you use to engage students?  

A. I believe I engage students primarily from my passion for my subject matter and my overwhelming love of cinema.  My enthusiasm has proven infectious, not just because I am vociferous in my opinions, but because I challenge my students to look at and critically examine films in all their aspects, from physical production through their deepest meanings.  The ability to think and write critically remains a crucial skill in my field, and I would like to think I demonstrate their relevance to my students in all of our interactions.

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Western Carolina University

Carmen Huffman

Carmen Huffman, Western Carolina University’s 2016 winner of the Board of Governors Excellence in Teaching Award, is an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences. Since joining the faculty in 2005, Huffman has taught chemistry, specifically physical chemistry classes. Huffman has received numerous grants during her time at Western Carolina. Her focus has been on grants that enhance the undergraduate research experience.

Huffman’s teaching philosophy seeks to prepare students by emphasizing germane skills that cross disciplinary boundaries. In addition to teaching fundamental chemistry concepts, Huffman’s teaching goals include the following: developing independent thinkers with creative problem‐solving skills and cultivating future professionals with transferable skills. She defines these skills as important abilities that transcend chemistry and equip students for the professional world. At Western Carolina, Huffman has transformed her instruction by incorporating inquiry‐based methods to create engaging and interactive learning environments. End‐of‐semester student comments often mention how Huffman has allowed them to work with and apply content in new, engaging ways. Her classes use process-oriented guided inquiry learning (POGIL) as a way for groups to investigate challenging real world questions. In end‐of-semester evaluations students rave about the POGIL activities calling them challenging yet rewarding. One peer observer revealed how “Dr. Huffman discovered this approach by turning the practice on herself, i.e. through a process of guided inquiry about what was working … in her classroom. The resulting approach is fairly radical … [h]er students do not just learn physical chemistry, or just science, but rather she teaches them how to be curious about what they are learning, to ask good questions, and to have their own courage to seek answers for themselves.”

According to her department colleagues, Huffman takes some of the most difficult courses and teaches them exceptionally well semester after semester. Students rave about how well she teaches a difficult course and embrace the stimulating but rewarding activities in her classes. A former student calls her the most challenging and the most inspiring teacher she has had. Colleagues note that she “has found an ideal balance between encouraging and challenging her students and demonstrating genuine care for them.” Another colleague explained Huffman’s classroom philosophy as “want[ing] the student to go on their own voyage of discovery.” Huffman has also participated in campus‐wide efforts to implement inquiry‐based methods in classroom instruction. In this way she has become a catalyst for change impacting her students, chemistry students and all students at Western Carolina.

Other recognition for Huffman’s exemplary work includes the College of Arts and Sciences Teaching Award (2012) and a commendation as a previous finalist for the Board of Governors Award. Huffman earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from the University of Rhode Island and a PhD in chemistry from the University of Maryland.

Q. The Teaching Awards were established in 1994 to underscore the importance of teaching and to encourage, identify, recognize, reward, and support good teaching within the University. What does this award mean to you?

A. Of course, it is truly an honor. Western Carolina University places a large emphasis on quality teaching, and there are many exceptional teachers at our institution, so being among the top instructors is very meaningful. I am passionate about teaching, and I put a lot of thought and energy into it, so this recognition is very rewarding.

Q. What was your path into teaching?

A. I always knew that I wanted to teach. I had a knack for helping my peers with chemistry courses when I was in college. I had considered teaching high school, but I really wanted a graduate degree to satisfy my own curiosity about chemistry. After digging deeper, I realized teaching at the college level was the best way to achieve my life-long learning goals. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Teaching is my absolute favorite part of my job, and I love that I get to teach my favorite subject to students learning about the subject for the first time as well as graduate students who are digging deeper, just as I once did and continue to do.

Q. Besides this award, is there one particular achievement in your career that makes you especially proud?

A. I recently became the director of our chemistry graduate program. This position is very satisfying because I am able to connect with our graduate students on both an academic and a personal level as I guide them through our program. Students have said they appreciate my devotion to their progress, and knowing that I make an impact on their journey makes me very proud.

Q. What teaching methods do you use to engage students?

A. I use process-oriented guided inquiry learning (POGIL) to teach my chemistry courses. This approach has students work in teams in a problem-based approach to understanding chemistry concepts. Not only do they gain a deeper understanding of the material, but they also learn important communication and teamwork skills that they can use for the rest of their lives in both an academic setting as well as the workplace. However, in chemistry, as in most disciplines, practicing scholarship activities is the really the best way to learn. Hands-on research in the lab is where students encounter the ultimate problem-based learning environment with an authentic project that takes them through the scientific method from beginning to end. These opportunities give students the best experience in what it’s like to be a chemist.

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Winston-Salem State University

Manjunatha Bhat

Manjunatha Bhat is an associate professor of physiology in the Department of Biological Sciences at Winston-Salem State University. He has been a faculty member at WSSU since January 2008, where he teaches courses in anatomy and physiology, biology and neuroscience to undergraduate students majoring in biology and allied health sciences. Bhat views his role inside and outside of the classroom more as a facilitator of student learning rather than as a traditional teacher and focuses on guiding his students through the learning process providing them with a variety of resources and tools to help them understand concepts and self-assess their learning.

Bhat is a strong believer in the use of “high tech and high touch” approaches to improve both student learning experience and outcomes. These include digital learning resources such as active and adaptive learning tools, data analytics and metacognitive analysis to monitor student learning, as well as innovative pedagogical practice and peer to peer teaching and mentoring. Bhat is regarded as an expert in the use of teaching and learning technologies to engage students both inside and outside the classroom. He not only helps his colleagues but also trains faculty at other institutions in the best practices of using these tools to improve student success. He conducts both face-to-face and virtual workshops and presents seminars on the use of teaching and learning technologies.

In addition to teaching, Bhat is actively involved in advising freshman students in the general education curriculum. He also serves on the University of North Carolina General Administration advising committee for WSSU and helps with campus-wide implementation of GradesFirst, a web-based student performance monitoring system used to provide support services to students.

Bhat has mentored more than 15 undergraduate research scholars in his laboratory, involving them in his research projects. He has published over 30 peer-reviewed publications and his research students have presented at local and national meetings.

Bhat received his undergraduate degree in veterinary medicine from the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, India. He obtained a master’s in pharmacology at Indian Veterinary Research Institute,  in Izatnagar, Bareilly, India and an MS in pharmacology from the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada. After getting his Ph.D. in physiology & biophysics at Case Western Reserve University, he worked at the Cleveland Clinic, where he established his current research on understanding the role of calcium in acute and chronic pain.

Q. The Teaching Awards were established in 1994 to underscore the importance of teaching and to encourage, identify, recognize, reward, and support good teaching within the University. What does this award mean to you?

A. I consider this recognition humbling and a great honor, especially because it is from my students and peers. It also means that some of the innovative teaching and learning methods that I have been using in my courses are having a positive impact for our students in a meaningful way. I consider this award as a motivating factor to continue to improve as a facilitator of learning to help our students succeed and reach their educational and career goals. As I regularly tell my students, I cannot do the learning for them but I can provide them with a variety of tools that they can use to master the topics and I am there to guide them both during in-class discussions and during office visits. I believe that this award recognizes my efforts in this regard and my willingness to constantly adapt as an instructor to educate the current generation of students. 

Q. What was your path into teaching?

A. While growing up, my family had a plan for me to become a priest. With guidance, support and sacrifice from my two older brothers, I completed my training in veterinary medicine. I watched first-hand my brother’s dedication and passion for education both at school, where he was a teacher, and at home. Although I wanted to be a practicing veterinarian, one of my professors encouraged me to pursue post-graduate education. It is at this stage that my instinct to pursue an academic career and passion for teaching and research solidified. My first faculty job was at a university hospital, where I pursued biomedical research full time. I did take advantage of opportunities to mentor and teach a small number of undergraduate and high school students in my laboratory during the summer. A chance encounter with a friend and current colleague at a conference led me to join WSSU, where I currently enjoy teaching and mentoring undergraduate students in biomedical research.  

Q. Besides this award, is there one particular achievement in your career that makes you especially proud?

A. In addition to teaching, I also advise students from a variety of disciplines as they progress through their academic curriculum from the time they enter WSSU until they graduate. I especially take pride in my involvement in advising freshman students as they navigate the general education curriculum. I have been part of this since we implemented the general education curriculum in 2010.

Q. What teaching methods do you use to engage students?

A. I use a combination of “high touch and high tech” approaches to engage students both inside and outside the classroom. Through the use of an interactive electronic textbook (SmartBook), students experience “adaptive and personalized learning”. By prompting students to self-assess their understanding of topics as they read through the chapter, the “SmartBook” adapts to individual student’s progress and identifies topics that they have mastered and those they need to study. Using this strategy, students complete short “reading assignments” before every class period so they would have learned basic terms and concepts before I teach them. This helps me spend my face to face class time with students to discuss topics that they need help with by using what is called just-in time teaching.

I also use active learning strategies to keep students focused and to engage them in class discussions. This is done with the use of “clickers”, which help me to quickly assess their understanding of topics as they are being discussed. We also use peer to peer instruction model to help students. Students who completed the course successfully in previous semesters serve as undergraduate teaching/learning assistants. They meet with small groups of students outside of the class period to clarify doubts and answer questions as well as conduct review sessions before exams. Overall, the use of adaptive learning technology and peer support system have helped in improving the student learning experience. 

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North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics

Philip Rash

Exceptional teacher and extraordinary mentor — Philip Rash, as an Instructor of Mathematics more than 12 years at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM), has led hundreds of highly capable students to discover the beauty of mathematics and the importance of learning throughout life. He expects his students to take ownership of their learning, as mathematics “is not a spectator sport.” He sees his role as “not only a teacher, striving to be an expert in my field; but also a student, always learning something new about both the content and the students that I teach.”

A versatile instructor, Rash typically takes on multiple preparations each trimester and has taught an extraordinary range of courses at NCSSM, including pre-calculus, calculus, statistics, numerical analysis, combinatorics, graph theory, and advanced math problem solving. His motivated students characterize him as “always enthusiastic about teaching” and “always willing to offer help on assignments and concepts I don’t understand. He introduced me to a whole new way of thinking about math.”

National Board-certified, Rash is a regular presenter at professional conferences, including the North Carolina Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCCTM) and NCSSM’s Teaching Contemporary Mathematics. Yet beyond NCSSM, he likely is best known for his involvement with mathematics competitions. He is the current co-chairman of the NCCTM State Math Contest Committee, which organizes North Carolina’s state competition at 15 local qualifying sites and the finals at NCSSM.  He is a coach for North Carolina’s American Regions Math League team, which won first place nationally in both 2006 and 2012. And he coached the NCSSM team that won the 2012 Singapore International Mathematics Challenge.

Always readily accessibile to both students and colleagues, Rash has won previous NCSSM Teaching Awards for Outreach as well as Service to Students. He has been an essential faculty member in NCSSM’s Step up to Stem summer program for rising 9th grade underrepresented minority students from across the state. The Mathematical Association of America has recognized him with its Edyth May Sliffe Award for Distinguished High School Mathematics Teaching.

Rash has even translated his primary avocation – flying — into a learning opportunity for students, by offering his popular Introduction to Aviation Mini-Term course for over a decade.  He also has served multiple years as a Hall Parent in our residential school, and was elected by his peers to a two-year term as President of NCSSM’s Faculty Senate.

Rash earned both a BS in computer science and BS.Ed. in mathematics at Western Carolina University in 1999; then completed his Master of Education in mathematics at Western Carolina University in 2003.

Q. The Teaching Awards were established in 1994 to underscore the importance of teaching and to encourage, identify, recognize, reward, and support good teaching within the University. What does this award mean to you?

A. In one word, it’s flattering, given that I work with so many other great colleagues. I can remember starting here about 12 years ago and being in awe of the chance to work with people like Dan Teague, Dot Doyle, all the other great people in our math department and the rest of the school.  Frankly, I’m still in awe of people like Dan (winner of the 2008 UNC Teaching Excellence Award).

Q. What was your career path into the teaching profession?

A. By my senior year in high school, I had pretty much decided I wanted to teach math. I taught for two years in western North Carolina, between my undergraduate and graduate degrees, then for one year after my master’s degree, otherwise I’ve only taught here at NCSSM.

One of the changes I’ve seen in myself is that, when I first started teaching, it was more about the math. Essentially teaching was kind of a way to get to do math and share it with other people. Over the years, I’ve transitioned to it being more about the students — and I get to work with some excellent students.

Q. Besides this award, is there one particular achievement in your career that makes you especially proud?

A. Yes, probably when Katie Dektar (NCSSM ’07, Stanford ’11) called to invite me to Stanford. She was being presented with the Frederick Emmons Terman Engineering Scholastic Award, given to only the top five percent of each year’s undergraduate senior engineering class. Terman scholars attend a celebratory luncheon and invite their most influential high school teacher. They do the ceremony in such a nice way, honoring the students but also the teachers, and the endowment covers all your expenses to be there.

Q. What teaching methods do you use to engage students?

A. Simply put, I believe in trying to get students to discover things rather than just being told them. Of course there’s a time for just telling, but as much as possible, I’m trying to get students to think and figure things out themselves. For some students that’s an adjustment because they may be used to just being told what to do. I want to help them make discoveries, on their own and working with other students.

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