College of LAS announces teaching and advising award winners

Honorees celebrated along with last year's winners
This year's teaching and advising award winners will be honored in April.

The College of LAS has selected winners of this year’s teaching excellence awards. Thirteen professors, graduate student teaching assistants, and an advisor have been honored for their service.

The LAS Dean’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching is being awarded to professors Teresa Barnes, history and gender and women's studies; Lisa Guntzviller, communication; Ryan Shosted, linguistics; David Wright, English; and Wendy Yang, plant biology and geology. 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 teaching assistant professor Pilar Martinez Quiroga, Spanish and Portuguese. 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 Nicholas Anderson, integrative biology; Leah Becker, English; Ander Beristain Murillo, Spanish and Portuguese; Emily Blevins, psychology; Kate Bruner, communication; and Jone Vicente Urrutia, Spanish and Portuguese. The award consists of a $2,000 cash award.

The LAS Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising is going to Sarah Sheeley, chemistry.

“Our teachers and advisors have had to work especially hard during the past year,” said Gene Robinson, interim dean of the College of LAS and Swanlund Chair in Entomology. “This year’s winners of the college teaching awards have demonstrated innovation, hard work, flexibility, and an ability to connect with their students that’s been so critical to effective learning during the pandemic.” 

This year’s winners were honored in a ceremony on April 20. The ceremony included last year’s teaching and advising award winners, as last year’s ceremony was canceled due to the pandemic.

Nicholas Anderson is a graduate teaching assistant in the Department of Entomology, and he instructs both introductory courses and an upper-level elective. “Nick has established himself as one of the most effective instructors in the School of Integrative Biology through his abilities to connect with students, explain complex concepts clearly and succinctly, and stay on top of the nuts and bolts of running a course smoothly,” said a colleague.

Teresa Barnes is a professor in the Departments of History and Gender and Women’s Studies and director of the Center for African Studies. She instructs introductory and upper-level courses, with her colleague commenting, “Along with her tireless work developing new courses and creating innovative and engaging ways to deliver material and elicit thoughtful responses, a central pillar of Barnes’s teaching, scholarship, and life’s work is to open new spaces for those who have been excluded or marginalized.”

Leah Becker is a graduate teaching assistant in the Department of English. She is described as an encouraging and supportive educator. A former student commented: “Her support has helped me to continue my education. Her emails and encouragements after my college graduation reflect that she truly cares about her students. I believe it is educators like Leah that allow students like me to not only succeed in a rigorous academic setting, but also to dream of continuing studies.”

Ander Beristain is a graduate teaching assistant in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese. He instructs upper-level courses in Spanish and Basque, and his approach to teaching is cultivated through social justice, “both linguistically and as a first-generation student in higher education.” A former student commented: “To Ander, teaching a course means more than having students receive a good grade. It means engaging with students and igniting our own interests and passions through whatever we were learning.”

Emily Jade Blevins is a graduate teaching assistant in the Department of Psychology. Her teaching philosophy as an instructor of upper-level psychology courses incorporates a commitment to inclusion, as well as the goal of fostering a sense of community within the classroom. “Emily is dedicated to student development; she meets students where they are, recognizes their strengths and collaborates with them to build on their strengths to enhance their learning,” a colleague commented.

Katie Bruner is a graduate teaching assistant in the Department of Communication. Bruner is the former administrator of SPEAK, a program formed in collaboration with The Grainger College of Engineering. “She was an amazing teacher and an even better leader,” commented a former student. “The class was focused on making us better speakers but also better leaders and that is something that will always stick with me. Katie Bruner is quite literally building the next generation of leaders.”

Lisa Guntzerville is a professor in the Department of Communication. Her colleagues describe her as having “taught with excellence” a variety of upper-level communication courses, graduate seminars, and the department’s online master’s degree in health communication program.  “Dr. Guntzerville is exceptionally responsive, thorough, and prepared. She welcomes nuance and creativity in her discussions, and instinctively understands how to balance praise and expectations to push her students forward,” commented a former student.

Pilar Martinez-Quiroga is a teaching assistant professor in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese. Martinez-Quiroga instructs intermediate and advanced undergraduate courses, an independent graduate course, and has directed James Scholars projects and senior honors theses. Said a former student: “Students leave her class with enhanced foreign language skills, but much more importantly, they leave with an insightful perspective of current social, political, and cultural issues.”

Sarah Sheeley is senior coordinator at the Chemistry Learning Center. Sheeley plays a key role assisting the roughly 6,000 undergraduates who take general education chemistry courses each year. She supervises some 80 teaching assistants who assist her in this role. Said her nominator: "Year after year, Sarah’s sustained efforts are absolutely indispensable as chemistry’s advisor for students on all matters academic, getting acclimated to STEM in college, and navigating hard material."

Ryan Shosted is a professor in the Department of Linguistics. Shosted instructs courses ranging from LING 100 to LING 404, most notably an extremely popular undergraduate course on the “Elements of Hittite.” A former student commented: “Professor Shosted’s classes represent the ideals of a liberal arts education, emphasizing a cohesive, interdisciplinary approach to a subject and promoting critical thinking through assignments that afford creativity and growth.”

Jone Vicente Urrutia is a graduate student teaching assistant in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese. Urrutia has instructed intermediate and advanced undergraduate courses and a mixed graduate/undergraduate course in Basque literature. Faculty supervisors have referred to Urrutia as an “excellent model” for other teaching assistants, and a former student commented: “Her class has better prepared me for my role as a Spanish teacher as she modeled how to effectively run a classroom.”

David Wright is a professor in the Department of English. Wright instructs introductory and upper-level creative writing and English courses and has been ranked as an Excellent Teacher for ten semesters, with nineteen of his courses being ranked excellent or outstanding. “The impact of [Wright’s] teaching far extends the limits of the classroom, embodying the perfect example of what a conscientious, responsive, and caring teacher can do,” one former student commented.

Wendy Yang is a professor in the Departments of Plant Biology and Geology. She works to develop courses and led efforts to improve teaching practices, including remote learning. She is described as a dedicated teacher engaged in the teaching mission beyond her own departments. “Dr. Yang has excelled in her contribution to the undergraduate experience through her work in the classroom, her mentoring of undergraduate research students, and her service on multiple teaching-related committees,” a colleague said.

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Kimberly Belser