University Recognizes Five Educators with Teaching Awards
Five UT Dallas educators were honored with President’s Teaching Excellence Awards for their outstanding efforts in the classroom.
The award recipients received medallions at the University’s annual Honors Convocation on May 10. They also were recognized at an April reception hosted by the Center for Teaching and Learning, where center director and associate provost Dr. Paul Diehl said the awardees were chosen from an outstanding group of nominees from across the campus.
“It’s very important for the institution to recognize our best instructors, and to do that in a public fashion surrounded by our colleagues,” said Diehl, Ashbel Smith Professor of Political Science. He noted that earning a President’s Teaching Excellence Award is “quite an achievement.”
Dr. Gregg Dieckmann
President’s Teaching Excellence Award in Undergraduate Instruction (tenure-track)
In addition to this year’s President’s Award, Dr. Gregg Dieckmann, associate professor of chemistry, has twice won Outstanding Teacher Awards from the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. A faculty member since 1999, he has taught inorganic chemistry, physical biochemistry and general chemistry, a course he has coordinated since 2006.
Dieckmann said he enjoys the challenge of teaching general chemistry, which is typically populated with first-year students and usually is a prerequisite for other courses.
“Most students don’t take general chemistry because they want to,” he said. “I love stepping into that arena and taking on the challenge of instilling an appreciation of how general chemistry impacts most aspects of these students’ lives.”
Incorporating interesting stories gives students a personal connection to the material, Dieckmann added.
“People are naturally inquisitive. I enjoy tapping into that to make these required courses some of their most enjoyable. I am motivated by those one-on-one interactions that occur. I love it when a student smiles because something just clicked, or when they simply tell me that they appreciate the time I’ve invested in helping them from point A to B.”
Dr. Sabrina Starnaman
President’s Teaching Excellence Award in Undergraduate Instruction (non-tenure-track)
Dr. Sabrina Starnaman, clinical assistant professor in the School of Arts and Humanities, began teaching at UT Dallas in 2011. She has taught an array of literary studies courses, including The Literature of Fantasy, The Literature of Science Fiction and Studies in Women’s Literature.
Starnaman said she believes her students value, and often enjoy, the expressive aspects of her classes because they can see how formulating their arguments with clarity is a vital skill.
“UT Dallas students are the most interesting students I’ve ever gotten to work with,” she said. “UTD students are intense, nerdy and diverse. As a result, I find that our students seize the books and make them their own.”
President’s Teaching Excellence Award for Teaching Assistants:
Sharron Conrad has worked as a teaching assistant at UT Dallas since fall 2014 teaching rhetoric in the School of Arts and Humanities.
She credits her successes in the classroom to her experience in her previous career working with students in art and history museums.
“When students visit a museum, they are excited about the experience of seeing things for the first time,” said Conrad, a humanities doctoral student. “Every person brings a unique perspective to the things they see, read and experience.
“When a student shares his or her interpretation of a written or visual argument, that contribution is completely distinctive. My role is to help the class recognize the value of their collective knowledge because it builds the trust necessary to improve writing.”
Dr. Ravi Prakash
President’s Teaching Excellence Award in Graduate/Professional Instruction
He said one of the most rewarding aspects of teaching is the opportunity to engage with all students, and to challenge them to look at issues and problems in ways that they may not have before.
“We are not here to teach facts. Our students are smart enough to get them from textbooks, research papers and the internet,” Prakash said. “We are here to teach them how to critically analyze and interpret information, and use this to develop new ideas and products.”
President’s Teaching Excellence Award in Online/Blended Instruction:
Zolton said the key to online courses and asynchronous learning is to help the students feel that they are all together on the same path at around the same time. She tackles this challenge through communication and timely feedback. She also incorporates successful methods from her live classes.
“In each of my classes, I utilize a combination of music, videos and toys to help students visualize concepts that are theoretical in nature,” Zolton said. “UTD has a great team of instructional designers that can make anything possible. I’ve had a couple of days of them filming me so that online students get the same visual experiences as my live-class students.”
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].