Academics

Distinguished Teaching Awards

One professor hosted an Iron Chef competition, dividing her students into teams, while another explained the profound impact a teacher had when she suggested reading Maya Angelou’s book, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”

Today, The Well begins a series of stories introducing the winners of the 2021 University Teaching Awards. Join us each day this week as we celebrate teaching achievements by sharing personal stories from the winners.

 

Distinguished Teaching Awards for
Post-Baccalaureate Instruction

This award was first given by the University in 1995 to recognize the important role of post-baccalaureate teaching. Each of the four winners receives a one-time stipend of $5,000 and a framed citation.

Eileen Burker

professor, Allied Health Sciences; director, Division of Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling; adjunct associate professor in psychiatry; clinical psychologist for the UNC Heart Transplant, Lung Transplant and LVAD programs

Eileen Burker

Eileen Burker, faculty member since 1992

Excerpt from award citation: Over the years, Burker has taught nine of the core courses in the curriculum, and she has a 100% placement rate for her students. She is a caring and skilled professor who has made the shift to remote teaching with ease, adopting innovative techniques to accommodate students with hearing and sight disabilities, as well as other kinds of learning differences.

Who was the best teacher you had and why?

I am grateful for the professors in my doctoral program at Auburn University: Drs. Annette Stanton, Julia Hannay, Irwin Rosenfarb, Phil Lewis and Barry Burkhart. They encouraged me, challenged me and supported me. As a brand new student in the doctoral program learning to do psychotherapy and concerned about techniques, Dr. Burkhart said, “Don’t forget that being listened to is incredibly powerful.” I share that with my students.

What does it take to be a good professor in 2021?

In the classroom, I constantly engage students in conversation about the material so that they have to think — they do not simply sit and take notes. Having to think about concepts helps students remember concepts after the semester ends. My goal is to provide a supportive and challenging environment to help students experience success and achieve their goals.

The mentoring process in clinical teaching takes place in the clinic, in patient rooms, in individual supervision and in small group supervision. I encourage collaboration. Multi-level collaboration between graduate students, doctoral psychology interns and post-doctoral fellows sets the stage for continuing collegial professional relationships once graduate school and internship are completed.

Tell us a story about something creative you’ve done to engage your students.

I love teaching our counseling skills lab class. I see students grow and make impressive progress in their skills over the course of the semester. I feel that this course is critically important as it provides instruction in the foundational counseling skills that our graduate students will need as they move onto practicum and internship, and eventually to careers counseling diverse individuals with psychiatric, physical and developmental disabilities.

In addition to the in-classroom work, each week every student videotapes a counseling session. Every student chooses a partner to be his/her videotaping partner for the semester. Each student serves as counselor for their partner’s client and then assumes the role of a client for their partner. Each week students make two videotapes: one where they are the counselor and the second where they role-play the client. In the role-play as the client, students are asked to assume a client role and carry that role throughout the semester. (The role-play cannot be based on a personal problem, but rather on a character in a book, a movie or something they have created.)

With or without the pandemic, this is a very challenging class because students are learning to do something very difficult and they are doing it in front of a video camera! I am very supportive and I bring humor into the classroom and the individual supervision. I am proud of the class and the changes it makes in beginner counselors’ skill levels.

I have a passion for didactic and clinical teaching. I am a huge advocate of our master’s degree program and our graduate students. Our students graduate and impact lives in important ways. If I were a clinical psychologist in private practice, I would be able to work with a limited number of clients. The graduate students, psychology interns and post-doctoral fellows with whom I work leave Carolina and touch many lives.

Martinette Horner

clinical assistant professor, School of Education

Martinette Horner

Martinette Horner, faculty member since 2010.

Excerpt from award citation: Student course evaluations praise her for fostering a culture of belonging and care — her concern for their well-being extends beyond the classroom. One student said she was a “warm cup of milk for the soul, a gifted educator.” Yet Horner is equally lauded for frank treatment of the myriad challenges her students will confront in the field; she provides them with the strategies, creativity and confidence needed to meet those challenges head on.

Who was the best teacher you had and why?

I was a lucky kid who had so many great teachers from my time as a student in Vance County Schools through college at Carolina and UNC Greensboro. I would be remiss if I named just one; however, I should start with my kindergarten teacher who made me feel like the smartest little girl in the world. I still remember learning how to read with her. I literally remember our first “readers” in kindergarten — the stories were about a brown dog or rabbit named Mack, a panda bear named Buffy, and a man with a magic red car named Mr. Fig.

She was among the best because of how she nurtured my love of learning at such an early age. Reading has always been my gateway to other worlds. My English-language arts teacher in junior high school continued to nurture my love of reading by introducing me to the works of the late great Maya Angelou. Mrs. Faulkner’s personal recommendation for “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” opened up yet another world of Black women authors I had not previously known. I do not know what she saw in me that led her to hand me the book and seek permission from my mother to read it, but I am forever grateful for this simple act. She is among the best because she sought to know me and my interests as an individual student and then catered learning experiences to those interests.

What does it take to be a good professor in 2021?

In 2021, we must be more flexible that ever with our instruction. Our typical teaching practices that we’ve depended on forever won’t necessarily work in 2021 given the myriad challenges our students are facing as well as our own. Flexibility allows us to see opportunities to grow our practice to respond to students’ needs especially in the midst of a pandemic.

Tell us a story about something creative you’ve done to engage your students.

Most recently, students in my Social Context in Educational Leadership course could choose from a menu of nontraditional responses for a social identity assignment. This particular course looks at social identities and how these identities show up for children in our public schools by way of policies, educational access and outcomes. In all my courses, I invite students to examine course content by first starting with themselves. One option for this assignment invited students to create a poem following the traditions of the I am … or I am from … genre of poetry, using metaphors and rich description of experiences that shaped their social identities. Many students added multimedia to their responses on their individual blog sites they maintained for the course assignments. This was a leap for me to ask professional students to respond to an assignment in a way that is very different from a paper, and I was not sure how many would take the option. Almost all of them did while showing the rest of us how these social identities are made and the impact these identities had on their own schooling experiences. I am glad I took the risk of assigning this as an option because I learned more about my students and what they are bringing to their educational leadership journey.

Mina Hosseinipour

professor of medicine, School of Medicine; scientific director, UNC Project Malawi

Mina Hosseinipour

Mina Hosseinipour, faculty member since 2002.

Excerpt from award citation: Not only has Dr. Hosseinipour provided students with excellent instruction and mentorship on research methods, scientific writing and other basic research skills, but she has also inspired them to further their education and pursue new career trajectories in public health.

Who was the best teacher you had and why?

I admire Professor Bill Miller’s (now at The Ohio State University, previously at Carolina) teaching style. By following your question with a relevant question, he requires you to critically think and problem solve, leading to you own self-awareness.

What does it take to be a good professor in 2021?

Making the necessary time to work with your students to make them see their fullest potential. With the pandemic, more of this support requires online engagement which certainly is more of a challenge that being able to safely meet together.

Tell us a story about something creative you’ve done to engage your students.

One year, we had a particularly large group of trainees. As part of getting to know the students, I hosted an “Iron Chef” event with three teams of students challenging my cook, Sarah “The Iron Chef,” over the secret ingredient, sweet potato. Each of the teams prepared an appetizer, entrée and dessert based on the sweet potato and Professors Irving Hoffman and Bill Miller joined me as judges of the event. I was amazed by the creativity of each of the teams as they presented and the enthusiasm they had for the competition. I’ve since adopted eating type competitions as part of “get to know each other” events. In addition to Iron Chef events (secret ingredient mango followed), we had a Goat Roast competition where students judged “Kenya goat” versus “Malawi goat” (vegetarians observed the integrity of the elections), and Food Olympics where cocktails, appetizers, entrees and desserts were awarded gold, silver and bronze medals.

Kenya McNeal-Trice

professor and vice chair of education, department of pediatrics, senior associate dean for graduate medical education, School of Medicine; chief graduate medical education officer/ACGME designated institutional official, UNC Hospitals

Kenya McNeal-Trice, faculty member since 2007.

Excerpt from award citation: A student explained that “Dr. McNeal-Trice always provides the appropriate balance between an intellectually challenging learning environment as well as a learning environment that promotes growth. She never misses an opportunity to teach medical students and residents something new and exciting. I believe the knowledge she shared prepared me for residency while also preparing me to excel as a minority in medicine.”

Who was the best teacher you had and why?

Dr. Jan Primus was my undergraduate biomolecules professor at Spelman College. She earned her undergraduate degree at Spelman College and her doctorate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was an incredible professor who truly cared about her students developing a deep understanding the material. Dr. Primus had an amazing intellectual command of biochemistry and taught with unrivaled enthusiasm. She had exceptionally high expectations of all her students. While this was intimidating for many students, her expectations challenged us to stretch beyond our comfort zones and achieve a superior level of knowledge. You knew she cared and ensured all of her students were prepared for the next step in their academic journey. As an African American woman in STEM, Dr. Primus inspired me to persevere in my academic journey knowing I was capable of excelling in any setting.

What does it take to be a good professor in 2021?

As a professor in 2021, I believe it is paramount to identify the goals of our learners, map our curricula to these goals and recognize any gaps in achieving these goals. This provides opportunities to create innovative curricula that not only benefit student and resident learners, but also the greater patient population and families we serve. I strive to create and promote interventions with an emphasis of actively integrating learners into the curricular development process. As an educator, I believe it is important for learners to have an active role in their educational experiences. I encourage self-reflection and acceptance of feedback as a means of challenging ourselves to the next level. I consider it a great success when learners are able to identify their own gaps and are active participants in creating a plan to address those gaps. I have dynamically used the process of 360-degree evaluation and feedback to address and improve my own skills as a clinician, educator and administrator.

Tell us a story about something creative you’ve done to engage your students.

While developing a curriculum specifically designed to transition senior medical students into residency training, I collaborated with faculty at the School of Nursing and the Eshelman School of Pharmacy to develop an interprofessional simulation training for medical, nursing and pharmacy students. This curriculum was an interactive experience that allowed students to work alongside students from other professional schools and practice skills, but more importantly emphasize teamwork and communication. Students used high-fidelity simulators to navigate an emergency clinical setting, performed procedures during the setting and were responsible for patient outcomes. Each session was observed and video recorded. Students debriefed after each simulation, observed videos and identified their own gaps for improvement. More importantly, students were able to provide feedback and accolades to others. Students uniformly praised this experience as teaching them skills in communication and collaboration in settings when they are on teams with individuals they’ve never met or worked with previously.