Academics

2019 University Teaching Awards

Recipients of the 2019 University Teaching Awards talk what it takes to be a good professor, what they have learned from their students, and something about themselves their students would be surprised to find out.

See the print issue here and read the award citations.

Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching

Established by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors in 1994 to underscore the importance of teaching and to reward good teaching across the UNC System, the awards are given annually to a tenured faculty member from each UNC System institution.

Donald Hornstein

TITLE AND DEPARTMENT Aubrey L. Brooks Professor of Law

FACULTY MEMBER SINCE 1989

HOMETOWN Los Angeles, California

 

 

EXCERPT FROM AWARD CITATION

Professor Hornstein’s qualities are best captured in a few powerful words from his students: “charismatic, passionate and unbelievably attentive” and “exceptional in every way, with a continued sense of humility.”

 

Who was the best teacher you ever had and why?

This is an easy one — it’s my wife, Dr. Amy Sheck, herself last year’s Board of Governors’ Teaching Award winner from our sister UNC institution, the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, where she is dean of science. From Amy I’ve learned that the best mark of a great teacher is to be a perpetual, and joyful, learner.

What is something you’ve learned from your students?

Speaking especially about my law students, I am perennially inspired by their eagerness to exceed the minimum that is expected of them. Law school courses are notoriously difficult. Yet I regularly see my students undertaking serious extracurricular research responsibilities on a law journal or spending a month with their teammates crafting a 50-page moot-court brief. They do all of this while also balancing personal lives and obligations, sometimes even raising young children.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

Before Amy and I had children, we had an avocation — joining the ranks of “Triple Crown” walkers who had backpacked all three of America’s long-distance trails: the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail. Backpacker magazine had an article about us, asking how a couple can spend all that time together without getting divorced.

What does it take to be a good professor in 2019?

We need perseverance because there are few “born” teachers. To be a good teacher means always striving to improve. We also need a sense of professionalism because quantitative measurements of our success are either incomplete or nonexistent. I welcome measurements of data-driven learning, but no one wants to live in a world where teachers merely teach to the test. From the best professors, students both learn and are inspired.

What is the most creative thing you have done to engage your students?

On occasion, I offer undergraduates in my Environmental Law and Policy class volunteer opportunities to help me in my pro bono work as an attorney and law professor. Over 100 of my undergrads worked with 15 volunteer law students to research a U.S. Supreme Court friend-of-the-court brief in support of the State in its effort to reduce out-of-state air pollution. The litigation led to huge reductions in conventional pollutants from out-of-state coal-fired power plants.

 

Tanner Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching 

This award was created in 1952 with a bequest by the children of Lola Spencer and Simpson Bobo Tanner in memory of their parents. The award recognizes excellence in inspirational teaching of undergraduate students, particularly first- and second-year students.

Rhonda Lanning

TITLE AND DEPARTMENT Assistant professor of nursing

FACULTY MEMBER SINCE 2007

HOMETOWN Homestead, Florida

 

 

 

EXCERPT FROM AWARD CITATION

“Her greatest strength is her calm, nonjudgmental acceptance and respect of students as they are, and her clear, strong message about the path to their goal behavior.

Who was the best teacher you ever had and why? 

David Worley was the best teacher I ever had. I was a first-year, first-generation college student who was completely unsure of herself, but he “saw” me and believed in me as a writer and as a student. He recognized a spark in me and helped me find my academic potential.

What is something you’ve learned from your students? 

Fearlessness. My students continually surprise me with their openness and willingness to dive into new and unfamiliar experiences.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

As a result of an incredibly challenging time in my young life, I dropped out of high school at age 16 and received my GED at 17.

What does it take to be a good professor in 2019?

Sparking interest among students and providing them with a rich opportunity to learn. Being responsive to my students and always trying to improve my approach to teaching.

What is the most creative thing you have done to engage your students?

Creating an interdisciplinary service-learning course from scratch.

Spencer Barnes

TITLE AND DEPARTMENT Associate  professor of media and journalism

FACULTY MEMBER SINCE 2011

HOMETOWN Raleigh, North Carolina

 

 

 

EXCERPT FROM AWARD CITATION

“The amount of patience Dr. Barnes shows, as well as his attention to detail when teaching new concepts, is proof of his love both of teaching and of the subject matter.

Who was the best teacher you ever had and why?

The best teacher that I have had was Bryan Laffitte, an associate professor in the department of graphic design and industrial design at the NC State University College of Design. He taught me how to teach, how to motivate students, how an academic unit should function and how to appreciate many of the intangible aspects of interacting with college students such as camaraderie and a shared vision for excellence.

What is something you’ve learned from your students?

I’ve learned that my students and I have a vested interest in pursuing excellence and that it takes all of our efforts to achieve success in the classroom. As a result, I’ve learned to appreciate their desire to learn, their ambition and their individuality. This has led to a high level of morale in my classes and the development of some very creative solutions to the design problems that I pose to my students.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

Most people do not realize that I hold two terminal degrees [highest degree in a specific field]. My master’s degree in industrial design (product design) is the terminal degree for its field and my doctorate of education is also terminal.

What does it take to be a good professor in 2019?

To be a good teacher in 2019 it takes patience, vision and professionalism. Patience is required in order to teach students and to help them realize their potential. Maintaining a vision helps you to surpass your course objectives and to use good judgment with respect to how you present and pace instruction for your students. Professionalism helps you to structure your course according to your students’ immediate and future goals.

What is the most creative thing you have done to engage your students?

Most of my instruction involves creativity. I teach graphic design, 3D animation and statistics classes. I record each of my class lectures and provide them to the students after each class period. The recordings provide the students with a verbatim account of every activity that occurred during class and they help the students to achieve a deeper level of learning.

 

Matt Redinbo

 

TITLE AND DEPARTMENT Kenan Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Microbiology

FACULTY MEMBER SINCE 1999

HOMETOWN Lafayette, Indiana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXCERPT FROM AWARD CITATION

I’ve had a lot of great professors in my life, but out of all the people who have mentored me, Dr. Redinbo was one of the only people who inspired me to think outside the classroom.

Who was the best teacher you ever had and why?

The best teacher I ever had was Mary Ratzer in high school literature. She created such an open classroom and shared so much about herself and her world views that it invited us “proto-adults” to step up and grow. It was transformative.

What is something you’ve learned from your students?

Tenacious malleability. Students are constantly molding themselves to their next challenges, and it reminds me to be the same way.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

I nearly went to graduate school in English literature rather than biochemistry.

What does it take to be a good professor in 2019?

To be a good professor in 2019, it takes really being present during class and office hours. Students are quite clear about what they understand and what they don’t. If you are open to seeing and hearing it, you can adjust in the moment and really nail a point rather than leaving them semi-mystified. I love the immediacy of teaching and the immediate adjustments you can make.

What is the most creative thing you have done to engage your students?

Biochemistry can be a bit dry, so I try to interject as much humor in as I can. For one particularly boring topic, I interjected a running commentary on a certain pop star. I think it helped. It helped me.

 

Marsha Penner

TITLE AND DEPARTMENT  Teaching assistant professor and associate director of neuroscience curricula

FACULTY MEMBER SINCE 2014

HOMETOWN Steinbach, Manitoba, Canada

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXCERPT FROM AWARD CITATION

“My favorite thing about Dr. Penner is that she is a professor who isn’t scared to think outside of the box and do things differently.

Who was the best teacher you ever had and why?

Dr. Bruce Bolster at the University of Winnipeg immediately came to mind. He was the person who introduced me to the brain. I got a C in his Biopsychology class, but I was so excited to learn more about the brain after taking his class that I didn’t let the C dissuade me. He had such enthusiasm for the subject, you couldn’t help but be excited about cranial nerves and action potentials.

What is something you’ve learned from your students?

I learn things from my students every day, so it’s hard to pick just one thing. My students help me see things from new perspectives and I am constantly amazed by their talent, creativity and willingness to help each other grow.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

I am a professional dog trainer in my spare time. I learn a lot about teaching in puppy classes. You might think a dog trainer is primarily training dogs, but really, we spend most of our time training the people.

What does it take to be a good professor in 2019?

You need to be open to and ready to change. We tell our students so often that learning should be challenging, and failure is part of the process. I think good teachers also embrace that advice in their teaching methods.

What is the most creative thing you have done to engage your students?

Right now, I am co-teaching a class with Dr. Michelle Robinson in American studies. We just had our first-year students write a work of detection fiction based on a primary neuroscience research article. Data become clues, neuroscientists become detectives, the hypothesis is transformed into a puzzle to solve. My mind is completely blown by the things our students created.

 

Tanner Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching by Graduate Teaching Assistants

Philip Bold

Department: Philosophy

Hometown: Wakefield, Rhode Island

Who was the best teacher you ever had and why?

My global studies and agriculture teacher in high school, John O’Malley, was the best teacher I ever had. He showed me, time and again, that learning should always be fun. John’s passion for teaching was only ever exceeded by his passion for learning — contagious for me and everyone else who had the privilege to spend time with him.

What is something you’ve learned from your students?

That no matter how wise you are, no one will be willing to listen unless you show your students compassion. And when you do that, you’ll learn more from your students than they’ll ever learn from you.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

Before college, I had very little interest in going to school. I was playing in hard rock and metal bands and had high hopes of one day going on tour. The only reason I eventually went to college was to follow my girlfriend at the time, who was already enrolled at Rhode Island College. I still daydream about what life would have been like had I stuck with rock ‘n’ roll, but I have no regrets.

What does it take to be a good professor in 2019?

I get the sense that the United States right now is extremely divided and lots of people are feeling angry, alienated and pessimistic. In light of this, I think it’s important to foster honesty, creativity, compassion and fun in the classroom. This will help our students — future leaders of the world — enter the next stage of their life with courage and hope, ready to use their knowledge to make the world a better place.

What is the most creative thing you have done to engage your students?

It’s not all that creative, but I found great success organizing debate sessions with my students. Recently, this involved splitting my class into Team Socrates, defenders of justice and morality, and Team Thrasymachus, defenders of selfishness and immoralism. I’ve never seen my students have so much fun. They really made the issues in our text come to life.

Citation:“Phil is definitely one of my favorite professors I’ve had at UNC. He is one incredibly insightful and compassionate professor. He really seems to apply what he knows about happiness to his own life.”

 

Megan Ford

Department: Chemistry

Hometown: Shawano, Wisconsin

Who was the best teacher you ever had and why? Christopher Kent, who was my high school band director, is someone whose teaching ability I really admire. The lessons that he taught me through music continue to impact both how I teach and my work in the lab. He showed me that great teachers seek to inspire students in all aspects of their lives, motivating and encouraging them to be the best they can be.

What is something you’ve learned from your students?I had a student tell me that to be successful at Carolina you had to study hard, keep your tea sweet and beat Duke. I try to live by those words.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?During my first chemistry lab in high school, I burned my finger making glass elbows. This started a long string of mishaps that built my reputation as the clumsy lab partner. Despite this, I loved my chemistry classes. I realized that if burns and cuts didn’t change how I felt about it, then chemistry must be the subject for me.

What does it take to be a good professor in 2019?A good teacher is someone who truly cares about the success of their students and is invested in helping them succeed both in the classroom and outside the classroom. I think as long as you care, regardless of what year or what subject it is, you will take the time and put in the effort to be a good teacher for your students.

What is the most creative thing you have done to engage your students?

I have had the opportunity to help develop and implement some new labs that I think do a really nice job of integrating what is learned in the lecture portion into a more applicable and hands-on situation. I have found that students are much better able to understand the material they learn in class when it coincides with a lab experiment.

Citation: “Megan also made sure to provide us with a personalized academic experience. She always impressed me with her knowledge of everyone’s personal benchwork strengths, and often stopped by our laboratory benches to offer us support before we even knew to ask.”

 

Ani Govjian

Department: English and comparative literature

Hometown: Los Angeles, California

Who was the best teacher you ever had and why?

Dr. Theresia de Vroom fostered an interdisciplinary environment that engaged so many of my interests. She taught Shakespeare and Medieval literature in a way that ignited curiosity and demanded rigor from each of her students. Her classroom was a space in which discussion flourished as she led undergraduates in honing their critical thinking and civil discourse skills. Dr. de Vroom provided the academic foundation for my future path towards the doctorate.

What is something you’ve learned from your students?

I’ve learned that my students welcome an opportunity for buy-in. Each person takes on a unilateral requirement with varying degrees of personal investment, but I’ve learned that students actively welcome the opportunity to have classes enrich their lives. Give them a reason to care, make the class useful, provide a good faith effort to deliver actionable skills, and students will return it with a good faith effort to learn from you.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

I used to work for a scuba diving magazine, and I have an oddly robust knowledge of marine life.

What does it take to be a good professor in 2019?

See the human in each student. It is easy for departments, administrators and program designers to get caught up in demographic data and broad snapshots of student life. Each student brings a different set of skills, needs and experiences to the classroom. Teaching is about putting aside expectations based on aggregate knowledge and acknowledging the set of individuals present in your classroom. Whatever one’s content expertise, your pedagogy starts with attending to each individual human.

What is the most creative thing you have done to engage your students?

One of my favorite assignments is when I worked with the Wilson Library for a horror course I taught. In addition to having time examining rare book materials, my students worked with flashy, pulp horror fiction covers for a research project that merged literary, art historical and archival research skills.

Citation:“Govjian’s class not only taught me about history and literature, but I enjoyed every minute of it. She immersed us in the culture of her subject, and I believe this unequivocally demonstrates her passion and teaching heart.”

 

Holly Shablack

Department: Psychology and neuroscience

Hometown: California, Maryland

*Who was the best teacher you ever had and why?

I’ve been lucky to have a number of wonderful teachers throughout my academic career. The two who solidified my interest in education and science are my high school AP biology teacher, Mrs. Illingworth, and physics teacher, Mr. Skinner. Both were great at distilling information and discussing the implications of the material that we learned about to real life. They believed in their students and had expectations that we were able to work toward in a supported way.

What is something you’ve learned from your students?

Continued curiosity and different ways of viewing the same topics. Each semester, I’ve been exposed to new ways of looking at old topics and its refreshing. Along with this, comes questions that I haven’t thought about before, which has helped me to be OK with not having an immediate answer which allows me to continue to learn, especially in areas that I wouldn’t explore as thoroughly on my own.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

People would be surprised to learn that I don’t like chocolate. Also, I did not like psychology in high school and didn’t think it was worth pursuing, but that clearly changed in my undergraduate career.

What does it take to be a good professor in 2019?

It is important to be open to changing how you share and distill information. I don’t think this applies to just 2019, but with ever-growing technology, every year there are new apps and avenues in which everyone, especially students, gather information. It is important to be aware of these to use them.

What is the most creative thing you have done to engage your students?

On the first day of class, before I talk to the students in length, I ask them to complete an online survey that contains questions that are modeled off of actual studies that we talk about and I ask their about their expectations and perceptions of others (including me). Throughout the semester, I present their responses as examples and, when applicable, compare it to the actual study’s findings.

Citation:“She was passionate about the material she taught and did her best to make every class relevant and comprehensible by everyone…promoting an environment of learning.”

Aisling Winston

Department: Economics

Who was the best teacher you ever had and why?
It is hard to choose one “best” teacher. I have been fortunate to have had many exceptional teachers throughout my life. All have dedicated considerable time and effort to ensuring that their students understand and engage with the material. All have been genuinely excited about what they have taught. As a result, I have developed a true joy in learning and in helping others learn.

What is something you’ve learned from your students?

I learn something from my students every day. My students have different experiences than I do, so they have different perspectives.  My conversations with my students help me see the world through different lenses. My students regularly raise questions and posit answers that I would otherwise not have considered. I am as much their student as they are mine.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

I am allergic to mayonnaise.

What does it take to be a good professor in 2019?

While technology has changed, I don’t think the qualities of a good teacher have changed significantly. Good teachers are as enthusiastic about learning as they are about teaching. They are concerned with their students’ abilities to understand and apply material, and they are devoted to creating an environment in which students feel free to ask questions and think critically.

What is the most creative thing you have done to engage your students?

I once gave students the option of composing a song instead of writing essay responses. The students who chose this option were more compelled to put in the work to fully understand the material in order to create a good song, and the songs were very entertaining! Many of the songs are still on my iPod.

Citation: “Not only is she enthusiastic, she’s concise, brilliant and able to answer any question directed at her. One can tell she is incredibly passionate about the course matter, a passion that has not waned throughout the semester.”

 

 

Mentor Award for Lifetime Achievement

 

Channing Der

Title and Department: Sarah Graham Kenan Distinguished Professorof Pharmacology

Hometown: San Francisco, California

Faculty Member Since: 1992

Who was the best teacher you ever had and why?

My own Ph.D. mentor, Dr. Eric Stanbridge, at the University of California, Irvine. He believed in me when I did not, providing me with just the right balance of support and challenge. He continues to this day to be a mentor to me. His mentoring approach has served as a foundation for how I have approached mentoring my own students and postdoctoral trainees.

What is something you’ve learned from your students?

It is amazing how simple acts of appreciation on my part can motivate students to do their best because they don’t want to let me down.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

People would be surprised to learn that I’ve now experienced seven NCAA men’s basketball championships during the course of my academic career. I’ve also had the honor of meeting both Coach Dean Smith and Coach Roy Williams. That Coach Smith was the first recipient of the Mentor Award for Lifetime Achievement was a bonus and makes me feel especially honored to receive this award.

What does it take to be a good professor in 2019?

Being flexible. After having mentored over 30 Ph.D. students, I have seen that no two students are alike, each represents a unique experience/challenge in mentoring. There is no one size fits all approach for being a good teacher.

What is the most creative thing you have done to engage your students?Baking sweets for them — they love my cookies and brownies. My current challenge for them is to guess the ingredients in cookies that I bake from [celebrity chef] Christina Tosi’s recipes.

Citation: “Channing is at the top of his field, as an internationally recognized and prominent cancer researcher. Yet, he establishes a first name basis rule in his lab, providing testament to his humility and grounded nature. He never diminishes his mentees…and you will never feel small in a room with him. He empowers his students and those around him, insisting that all our thoughts are valid, our perspectives are important, and our discoveries and curiosities equal in value… he uses his platform and guidance to lift your voice, to remove your inhibitions, and to embolden you to recognize and value your own strengths.”

 

Carlyle Sitterson Award for Teaching First-Year Students

 

 

Alexander Miller

Title and Department:Associate professorof chemistry

Hometown:Boston, Massachusetts

Faculty Member Since:2012

Who was the best teacher you ever had and why?

The chemist Harry Gray orchestrates a unique graduate-level course at Caltech. Bursting with enthusiasm and infused with insight, Harry fosters a supportive and collaborative learning space. Harry invites other faculty to attend — both to share their knowledge and to learn themselves — and he encourages faculty and students alike to share their love of chemistry. The whole Friday morning event is fueled by doughnuts and coffee.

What is something you’ve learned from your students?

One of the fun parts about teaching a large class is finding out how individual students approach concepts or problems differently. Seeing the creative approaches my students have taken has taught me the importance of introducing material from multiple perspectives or sharing different strategies for solving a problem.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

When I was a first-year undergraduate student, I was torn between a major in philosophy or chemistry. I still enjoy pondering big questions, but it was the hands-on laboratory research that sparked a lasting love of chemistry.

What does it take to be a good professor in 2019?

Versatility and responsiveness can be game-changers in the classroom. Being able to rapidly shift between various instructional methods that balance knowledge transfer and self-discovery can lead to a lively and engaged atmosphere. Listening to the students is key to this approach, as their feedback can guide instructional choices tailored to that class at that moment.

What is the most creative thing you have done to engage your students?

My introductory inorganic chemistry course covers an unusually diverse breadth of topics, so I incorporated a common theme of energy science running through the course. This provides an opportunity to connect the fundamental chemical concepts to the proven and emerging technology that powers the planet.

Citation:“Professor Miller encouraged my curiosity and research interests, and it was obvious that he understood the importance of diverse perspectives in STEM.”

 

 

 

Diego Riveros-Iregui

Title and Department: Assistant professor of geography

Hometown: Fusagasugá, Colombia

Faculty Member Since: 2013

Who was the best teacher you ever had and why?

I was fortunate to have not one but three fantastic teachers in high school, whom I think of as the ‘dream team of teachers’ that made a positive impact in my life. David Javela, Carlos Morán and Marco T. Rodríguez taught me philosophy, chemistry and calculus, respectively. They were rigorous, well-respected and, above all, fair. They deeply cared about our success.

What is something you’ve learned from your students?

What I have learned from Carolina students is that they are eager to be challenged, they are thinkers and doers, and they want to gain practical knowledge. They want to solve real-world problems. Every day, as I’m about to walk into the classroom, I think of how lucky I am to work with such talented students.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

I am the first generation in my family to attend and graduate high school. Thanks to the hard work of my family, and the outstanding support of many, many mentors, I had the opportunity to advance my career in science to now teach at one of the best universities in the country.

What does it take to be a good professor in 2019?

Honesty, compassion, and — perhaps more importantly — understanding of what the students need to gain both intellectually and personally from your class. You also need to crack a few good jokes.

What is the most creative thing you have done to engage your students?

A few times throughout the semester, I spend five to eight minutes of class highlighting upcoming funding or job opportunities, discussing career paths or sharing professional experiences from my own path. I have noticed that this tends to engage students more in the course materials, because they identify the benefit they could gain from their time in college.

Citation: “Dr. Riveros-Iregui really is a model for his students. He looks for opportunities to improve himself by taking feedback to heart. He does what we all wish we could do in a better version of ourselves.”

 

William C. Friday/Class of 1986 Award for Excellence in Teaching

 

Beth Kurtz-Costes

Title and Department: Director, doctoral program in developmental psychology, and Zachary Taylor Smith Distinguished Term Professor

Hometown: Defiance, Ohio

Faculty Member Since: 1990

Who was the best teacher you ever had and why?

The best teacher I ever had was Dr. T. Wayne Rieman at Manchester College. I learned from him that education is more about posing the right questions than about learning answers. The more we learn, the better we understand how little we truly know.

What is something you’ve learned from your students?

One of the many things I’ve learned from my students is how privileged I was in childhood. I grew up with parents who loved each other and their children and who were part of a very loving, supportive, extended family network.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

Both of my grandfathers were farmers, and one of them liked to attend seances. Also, I dropped out of college after my first year.

What does it take to be a good professor in 2019?

An openness to different perspectives, curiosity, genuine interest in students. Some knowledge about technology is also an asset.

What is the most creative thing you have done to engage your students?

I’m not sure this is the most creative, but one of the scariest things I ever did was agree to be hypnotized in front of an auditorium of 300 students.

Citation:“Dr. Beth Kurtz-Costes is more than just an amazing teacher. She is a thoughtful mentor, a dedicated advocate and, quite frankly, the world’s most patient life coach.”

 

 

Johnston Teaching Excellence Awards

 

 

Inger Brodey

Title and Department: Director, Office of Distinguished Scholarships, associate professor of English and comparative literature, adjunct associate professor of global studies and affiliated faculty in Asian studies

Hometown: Colorado Springs, Colorado

Faculty Member Since: 2004

Who was the best teacher you ever had and why?

I’ve had so many wonderful teachers, but the best was perhaps Wayne Booth at the University of Chicago. We had a grad seminar weekly at his house. He was dedicated to a kind of Socratic teaching method: lecturing was anathema to him. He emphasized asking good questions. He was teaching us a life skill about seeking understanding for its own sake and learning to debate among ourselves.

What is something you’ve learned from your students? 

I constantly learn from my students. I learn about popular culture from them, and they struggle to keep me moderately up to date. Many of the courses that I teach are interdisciplinary in nature, and in those classes, students are more willing to share insights from their particular disciplines in class. That’s one of my favorite kinds of exchanges. I’m always inspired by how many things our students do outside the classroom.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you? 

(a) I’ve always had a fear of public speaking. (b) I am a bird magnet.

What does it take to be a good professor in 2019?

I’m not sure how much that changes over time. It is just as hard to formulate good questions as it has ever been. But there are different challenges that each generation faces, and it’s good to be aware of those in the classroom. In my classroom, no matter what the topic, I try to teach students how to converse on difficult issues and especially the important ability to disagree civilly.

What is the most creative thing you have done to engage your students?

I love coming up with creative assignments. In my The Feast in Philosophy, Film and Fiction class, the culminating event is an actual feast. The students all help make the food and set the table and send invitations. And we always include one stranger. The feast is set outdoors, and each student must give a toast to the feast from the perspective of one of the authors or protagonists that we have studied.

Citation:“Professor Brodey is one of the best professors I’ve ever had here at UNC, not just because of the sheer breadth of her knowledge, but also because of how effectively she can impart it upon her students.”

 

 

 

Matthew G. Springer

Title and Department: Robena and Walter E. Hussman Jr. Distinguished Professor of Education Reform

Hometown: Glen Arm, Maryland

Faculty Member Since: 2018

Who was the best teacher you ever had and why?

My third grade teacher, Mrs. Stellman, made the best old fashioned shortbread and taught me that dyslexia was my learning advantage. My graduate school mentors, professors Dale Ballou and Jim Guthrie, were also instrumental to my development as a teacher and researcher. Dale is the most careful methodologist I’ve ever met and always puts students first. Jim taught me to challenge conventional wisdom, take risks and embrace failure, and bring innovation to advance policy and practice.

What is something you’ve learned from your students?

I’ve learned that the next generation is a game-changer. I admire Carolina students’ general curiosity for knowledge, passion for civic-minded change and forward-thinking leadership.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

I’ve learned to correctly spell “Dook.”

What does it take to be a good professor in 2019?

Good teaching is as much an art as it is a science. I like to think good teaching comprises educational, transformational, inspirational, theoretical, conceptual and practical knowledge. The more we can mix these ingredients together to engage diverse interests and perspectives, the more we learn as a team.

What is the most creative thing you have done to engage your students?

Each semester I challenge my students to get out of self by engaging in the local community or doing something for someone else without seeking praise or recognition. In academia, it is easy to lose perspective and become hyper-focused and absorbed in our classes and research. Carolina is a unique university community in that it places true value and emphasis on public engagement and working to improve lives.

Citation: “In every lecture, it is apparent that this is his life’s work, and he loves it.”

 

 

 

Chapman Family Teaching Awards

 

Radislav Lapushin

Title and Department: Associate professor of Russian

Hometown: Minsk, Belarus

Faculty Member Since: 2006

Who was the best teacher you ever had and why?

I have been blessed with many wonderful teachers with different personalities and teaching styles, but the same unconditional dedication to their subject matter and every single one of their pupils. To name just one example: Anna Lisa Crone, my dissertation advisor from the University of Chicago. She never looked at her watch while sharing her knowledge with students. Her guiding presence in my life has not been minimized by her departure from us.

What is something you’ve learned from your students?

Energy, drive, sense of justice, intellectual curiosity, daring critical insights, eagerness to embrace the unknown and, most importantly, a lack of fear of this unknown… And of course, their infectious smiles – they teach me to appreciate life on a daily basis!

*What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

People would be surprised to learn how many CDs I have in my musical collection. They are virtually everywhere in our house (ask my wife). Mostly jazz: its “sound of surprise” leads me through the day and right to the classroom.

*What does it take to be a good professor in 2019?

The same as it would take any other year: believing in what you teach and in those you teach. Luckily, both of these beliefs have a strong foundation. Entering each of my classes, regardless of its size and level, I know that I am going to teach the very best literature — Chekhov, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy — to the very best students. All I need to do is to make this encounter a meaningful and exciting experience.

*What is the most creative thing you have done to engage your students?

For me, being creative in a classroom means being ever-alert to my audience and capable of acting on the spur of the moment. It is not just a particular activity or technique I employ but a myriad of little things which hopefully make every class unforgettable and not like any other.

Citation: “This was the best literature class I’ve ever taken. He is an engaging, exciting lecturer, and managed to bring out even the quietest voices in class.”

 

Gidi Shemer

Title and Department: Teaching associate professor of biology and faculty adviser

Hometown: Tel Aviv, Israel

Faculty Member Since: 2009

Who was the best teacher you ever had and why?

Yossi Ovadia, who taught me basic chemistry, was the best teacher I ever had. He taught us chemistry by teaching us the history of the relevant research. He took us through a journey and put us in the shoes of the actual scientists. We reviewed results and were expected to arrive at conclusions and suggest hypotheses, only to find that follow-up studies completely changed what we were thinking back then (which is what happened in reality).

What is something you’ve learned from your students?

I’ve learned never to take anything for granted. Both in teaching and in advising, I learned that I don’t know about life circumstances of students unless they share those with me, and that I should never assume that I know enough about a student’s potential and motivation without learning about them in more depth. Teaching and advising our students is a humbling experience

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

I took three gap years after college, running a turkey farm. The other fact is that I am on the other side of the fence now, being a devoted vegetarian.

What does it take to be a good professor in 2019?

To be a good professor, you have to be student-oriented and work hard to teach students how to proactively approach a topic instead of expecting a passive flow of information.

What is the most creative thing you have done to engage your students?

One activity that I especially like is from one of my muscular system class meetings in human physiology. We learn about different types of muscle contractions, and I have the entire class of 250 students stand and do a couple of squats while they stop in different positions and say aloud the type of contraction involved.

Citation:“Dr. Shemer is genuinely interested in his students’ success inside and outside the classroom. I admire and appreciate all that Dr. Shemer has taught me both as a student and a person.”

 

Michelle Sheran-Andrews

Title and Department: Teaching associate professorof economics

Hometown: Kennett Square, Pennsylvania

Faculty Member Since: 2014

Who was the best teacher you ever had and why?

The best teacher I ever had was Dr. David Dean, my undergraduate economics professor. He set high standards, was generous with his time and was enthusiastic and engaging during class. He also really cared about his students and had a great sense of humor. He was a true mentor to me.

What is something you’ve learned from your students?

I’ve learned so much from my students, so this is hard to answer. I have learned a lot about the material I teach from the questions they ask and the insights they share. I’ve gained an enormous appreciation and respect for the different ways in which people acquire knowledge and process information. I’ve also learned a lot about the human spirit. I’ve seen many inspiring examples of resiliency, determination, kindness, generosity, intellectual curiosity and passion.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

I consider myself an introvert. Also, the worst grade I ever got in college was on my first economics exam.

What does it take to be a good professor in 2019?

Good teachers in 2019 need to be learning-centered. The resources teachers develop, the policies they set and the course structure they adopt should all be aimed at promoting learning. Teachers should see student resistance as a signal, an idea I first heard from a Teaching in Higher Ed podcast with Anton Tolman. If students aren’t paying attention in class, then it’s good teachers who see that as feedback and use it to improve their teaching.

What is the most creative thing you have done to engage your students?I created help sheets for 18 different topics in my class. These help sheets summarize and synthesize information. In addition, for each help sheet I created a video in which I walk students through an application of the material. I also wrote a list of Bloom’s Taxonomy-inspired learning objectives for each help sheet to model for students how to achieve a high-order level of understanding.

Citation: “MSA is easily the best professor I have had at Carolina. She is an incredible teacher and engages a huge classroom. I loved her class and learned a lot.”

 

Sarah Treul Roberts

Title and Department: Bowman and Gordon Gray Term Professor of Political Science

Hometown: Grand Rapids, Michigan

Faculty Member Since: 2011

Who was the best teacher you ever had and why?

Tim Johnson, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota. Tim taught me through his actions that you can teach undergraduates in a rigorous way and have fun while doing it. He also taught me not to take myself too seriously as a professor.

What is something you’ve learned from your students?

My students have taught me the importance of sharing different viewpoints in the classroom. All of my classes are better due to the students’ willingness to share their differing perspectives, ideologies and backgrounds openly with one another.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

I’m still nervous on the first day of classes.

What does it take to be a good professor in 2019?

To be a good teacher in 2019—especially in political science—I think we all need to double-down on our commitment to making the classroom a place that all viewpoints are welcome. It is only through the sharing of our differences and the debating of our ideas that we can ever hope to move beyond that which divides us.

What is the most creative thing you have done to engage your students?

I use a basketball hoop in my big introductory class. If more than 80 percent of the class gets a designated reading comprehension question correct (via Poll Everywhere), the class earns a shot at the hoop for an extra point on the next exam. It’s fun and also a good way to reward reading and preparation.

Citation: “Sarah is the best professor, teacher, supervisor, anything I’ve ever had in my entire life. My kindergarten teacher, Ms. Andrews, used to hold that spot. Now, it’s Sarah’s.”

 

Distinguished Teaching Awards for Post-Baccalaureate Instruction

 

 

María DeGuzmán

Title and Department: Professor of English and comparative literature and director of Latina/o studies

Hometown: Boston, Massachusetts, and Madrid, Spain

Faculty Member Since: 1999

Who was the best teacher you ever had and why?

I have been fortunate to have many excellent teachers, and for all of them I am grateful. My very best teachers were my parents, who encouraged me and gave me courage. I thank them both for their emphasis on the cultivation of historical consciousness, regardless of one’s area of endeavor. And I thank my mom in particular for her unwavering belief in the arts and humanities as the path to self-knowledge.

What is something you’ve learned from your students?

My students keep me connected to the present and the future, challenging me to meet them in the world that has been handed to them.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

I am fascinated by bats. My longest research paper in high school concerned bats.

What does it take to be a good professor in 2019?

One must be in touch with the world, with what is happening in it, with “our time,” its enormous challenges, regardless of what one is teaching, historical or contemporary.

What is the most creative thing you have done to engage your students?

One way to understand “creative” is to think about what has been most “generative,” what has sparked the emergence of an ongoing plurality of activities. By that definition, the most creative thing I have done at Carolina to engage my students is to establish, with the help of my colleagues, the UNC Latina/o Studies Program with its courses, minor, various speakers’ series, working groups and other evolving formations.

Citation: “She influenced my life more than anyone outside my immediate family and, simply but profoundly, she changed my life.”

 

 

 

 

Donna Gilleskie

Title and Department: Professor of economics

Hometowns: Greensboro, North Carolina, and Lynchburg, Virginia

Faculty Member Since: 1994

Who was the best teacher you ever had and why?

While I have benefited from many effective teachers during my 24 years of schooling, the teacher who has had the most lasting impression is my father. He had a unique way of teaching. He taught by having me figure out the answers and letting me experience outcomes. He never let me give up, yet he always had my back. To this day, I seek his wisdom in many situations.

What is something you’ve learned from your students?

My students have been instrumental in helping me learn how to present material in different ways. It is easy to assume that how one understands a concept is the way others will understand it. I am still learning how to put myself in the shoes (or desk chairs) of my students.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

People might be surprised to learn that I recently took a curling lesson from the Canadian National Team coach at the oldest active curling sports club in North America.

What does it take to be a good professor in 2019?

My answer to what it takes to be a good teacher in 2019 is “the same things that it took to be a good teacher at any time in our history.” A teacher needs to be passionate about what she is teaching. She needs to care about how and how much her students comprehend. She needs to be prepared, and she needs to be available.

What is the most creative thing you have done to engage your students?

I don’t know if any particular teaching tool I use has been unusually creative, but I do like to share my excitement for the material I am teaching with my students. And sometimes I get pretty animated showing my enthusiasm. I think this behavior helps students understand the importance of the information and also shows them that I care about that importance. I hope it reinforces the usefulness of the material being taught.

Citation: Nominators praised Professor Gilleskie’s professional mastery and celebrated her caring personal support as the consummate teacher and scholar who also offered to help with a trainee’s family medical emergency.

 

 

 

 

 

Bernard Herman

Title and Department: George B. Tindall Distinguished Professor of Southern Studies and Folklore

Hometown: Norfolk and the Eastern Shore of Virginia

Faculty Member Since: 2009

Who was the best teacher you ever had and why?

I’ve been blessed and inspired by so many great teachers that it’s really hard to speak to one and not the others. Still, David G. Orr at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1970s stands out. His enthusiasm and total engagement in the embrace of new ideas and the work of his students has guided me over the course of my career. I dedicated my first book to Dave.

What is something you’ve learned from your students?

Humility and excitement. Our conversations in and out of the classroom are always defined by possibility and opportunity. The Carolina students that I am privileged to work with are committed to the principle of scholarship as central to making the world a better, more just place for all. I learn from them in every encounter.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

Most folks seem surprised that a professor in the humanities cultivates oysters. I also keep an orchard of fig trees with century-long histories, where people can get clippings and start their own grove. I describe our little orchard as a “library” because it is there for people to “check out” figs and make them their own.

What does it take to be a good professor in 2019?

Compassion, a commitment to listening, and a dedication to encouraging critical and creative thoughtfulness in all aspects of intellectual and everyday life. I just want students to be confident in how they encounter, recognize and engage the universe of possibility.

What is the most creative thing you have done to engage your students?

I always encourage folks to step out of their comfort zones, to be creative and collaborative across the disciplines, to make things that they will treasure as emblems of what they can do. In recent years, this has included documentary work, podcasts, museum exhibitions, quilt making, online publications, interactive digital platforms, recipes, poetry, storytelling and art. I want students to know that they can act on ideas in meaningful and compelling ways.

Citation: Herman is the teacher “most responsible for the way I think, teach, and write.”

 

 

 

Ram Neta

Title and Department: Professor of philosophy

Hometown: Holon, Israel

Faculty Member Since: 2003

Who was the best teacher you ever had and why?

The best teacher I had was John Rawls at Harvard. He supervised my honors thesis and met with me one-on-one weekly to discuss what I was thinking about that week. But what made him a great teacher for me was not simply that he was willing to meet with me individually and regularly — though that helped. What made him a great teacher was that he could understand what I was trying to say better than I could.

What is something you’ve learned from your students?

My own research has been influenced by lots of different students in many different ways. But, as a teacher, the thing I’ve learned from all my students is that serious learning requires moving one’s body. If you have an idea while you’re seated or otherwise stationary, then start moving around right away, so that you can work out the details of the idea: if you remain stationary, the idea won’t ever get worked out adequately.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

When I lived in Washington, D.C., many years ago, I would sometimes recite modern American poetry on the street for my own amusement; my favorite poet at the time was Wallace Stevens. People passing me by would offer me money, even though I wasn’t doing it for money.

What does it take to be a good professor in 2019?

It takes the ability to hear not just what a student says but hear what they mean. Sadly, that ability doesn’t scale. Nobody can engage in the kind of teaching that I’m describing with thousands of students. The first thing it takes to be a good teacher in 2019 is the opportunity to pay close attention to individual students. The second thing it takes is the ability to help them pay closer attention to themselves.

What is the most creative thing you have done to engage your students?

I don’t know how creative it is, but I regularly ask my students to evaluate each other’s work. My goal is to help them to learn what it’s like for someone else to evaluate their work, and thereby help them to create work that an evaluator will be able to absorb.

Citation: “Doing philosophy with Ram Neta is like rediscovering the joy of philosophical investigation.”