College of LAS names teaching and advising award winners

Fourteen award recipients to be honored
Alma mater
Winners of this year's College of LAS teaching and advising awards will be honored in April.

The College of LAS has selected winners of this year’s teaching and advising awards. Professors, graduate students, a lecturer, and an advisor have been honored for their service.

The LAS Dean’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching is being awarded to Andrew Gaedtke, a professor of English; Rana Hogarth, a professor of history; Sonia Lasher-Trapp, a professor of atmospheric sciences; Zoi Rapti, a professor of mathematics; and Brian Walters, a professor of classics. The award consists of a $1,000 discretionary account to support teaching and a one-time increment of $2,000 added to their salary.

The LAS Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching for Instructional Staff is being awarded to Benjamin Clegg, teaching assistant professor in integrative biology; and Mary Ramey, senior lecturer in communication. The award consists of a $1,000 discretionary account to support teaching and a one-time increment of $1,000 added to their salary.

The LAS Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching for Graduate Teaching Assistants is going to Elizabeth Field in mathematics; Teresa Greppi in Spanish and Portuguese; Erin Grogan in gender and women’s studies; Kadin Henningsen in English; Cristina Mostacero Pinilla in Spanish and Portuguese; and Beth Ann William in history. The award consists of a $2,000 cash award.

The LAS Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising is going to Neil Baer, academic advisor in communication. The award consists of a $2,000 cash award.

“These individuals are engaging, innovative, and energetic in their efforts to teach and assist students,” said Feng Sheng Hu, the Harry E. Preble Dean of the College of LAS. “They make their subjects more interesting, and they help students organize and effectively handle course loads. In doing so, they lay the foundation for years of success for our students.”

Brief descriptions of the award winners follow:

Andrew Gaedtke has taught English at Illinois for more than eight years. As a professor, he teaches a variety of courses, from literature and medicine to introductory British literature and modernist literature and culture. He regularly receives tremendous teaching evaluations, with one former student writing that Gaedtke taught them to “embrace our confusion and uncertainty” and turn it into confidence that’s been “integral to my growth and success as a scholar.”

Rana Hogarth has taught history at Illinois for seven years. As a professor, she is known for drawing on her own expertise in the history of slavery, race, and medicine in the Atlantic world to create profound lessons for students that develop their academic, professional, and personal growth. Students regularly use the word “empowering” to describe her classes.

Sonia Lasher-Trapp has taught atmospheric sciences at Illinois since 2014. As a professor, she is being honored for teaching efforts including her development of a novel, research-based course for sophomore atmospheric science majors. One student wrote, “I gained and learned the most from Sonia’s cloud physics course than I have from any other class, and it was truly the best class I have ever taken.”

Zoi Rapti has taught mathematics at Illinois for 14 years. As a professor, she is known as an inspirational teacher and innovator in undergraduate education, as she has served five years as director of the university’s Biomath program. Wrote one former student, “Professor Rapti was such an effective instructor that I was able to take what I learned from a biological standpoint and apply it to the United States economic system to estimate impacts on GDP.”

Brian Walters has taught classics at Illinois for seven years. As a professor, he engages students by blending disciplinary approaches (philology, history, archaeology, reception, film, and music) and is praised by students as a “superb” teacher. Wrote one: I am completely convinced my growth was because of the confidence I gained with Professor Walters.”

Benjamin Clegg has been at Illinois for 14 years. As a teaching assistant professor in the School of Integrative Biology, he has provided innovative approaches for supporting all students, in particular first generation students. He is also a champion for active learning and has mastered the concept. “Ben is a phenomenal instructor,” his nominator wrote, “with boundless energy who each semester goes above and beyond for our students.”

Mary Ramey has been at Illinois for 16 years. As a senior lecturer in communication, her courses are consistently in high demand by students, with her courses in sexual communication, public speaking, advanced interpersonal communication, and family communication being among the quickest to fill. One student wrote that Ramey “uses humor, storytelling, and shows a genuine respect and knowledge about college-aged terminology.”

Neil Baer has been at Illinois for almost six years. As an academic advisor in communication, he helps students make informed decisions about their future educational, career, and life goals—and has become extremely popular among students. He received nearly two dozen nominations for this award, with one student writing, “He is someone I trust in helping me make any decision regarding my educational and professional future. We have built a sound relationship over the past two years and I am looking forward to its continuation.”

Elizabeth Field has studied mathematics at Illinois for five years. As a graduate teaching assistant, she holds administrative responsibilities in large classes, trains other teaching assistants, and teaches courses. Wrote one student, “She helped push me in a way that allowed me to solve problems on my own, as well as developing an interest in the mathematical concepts I was once fearful of.”

Teresa Greppi has studied Spanish and Portuguese at Illinois for eight years. As a graduate teaching assistant, she teaches a wide range of courses and is considered a go-to teacher for whatever teaching context is in need of her talents. Her nominator wrote, “Only the most talented of instructors could thrive in the range of pedagogical contexts that Teresa has so deftly navigated.”

Erin Grogan has studied gender and women’s studies at Illinois for three years. As a graduate teaching assistant, she serves as an assistant in large lecture courses and teaches an upper-level course for major, which is rare for a teaching assistant. Wrote one student, “Erin has an infectiously positive, outgoing energy.”

Kadin Henningsen has studied English at Illinois for more than two years. As a graduate teaching assistant, he has taught “gateway” courses designed to introduce students to college-level writing and argumentation, and to enrich work in other fields. One student wrote, “(His) class helped me discover my passion for environmentalism, and through Kadin’s teachings I realized that I can connect that passion to many other facets of my life.”

Cristina Mostacero Pinilla has studied Spanish and Portuguese at Illinois for seven years. As a graduate teaching assistant, she is known to be a highly versatile and excellent teacher in a variety of courses. One veteran educator who observed her teaching noted that Pinilla stood out as an “elite” instructor with impeccable timing and familiarity with her topic.

Beth Ann Williams has studied history at Illinois for seven years. As a graduate teaching assistant, she is noted for bringing her research methods to class to help students think more deeply about material. Wrote one student, “She emphasized an approach to history that was engaging and specifically tailored to studying the humanities, but was also applicable to other disciplines due to her focus and guidance on writing and viewing the world.”

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Dave Evensen

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