Distinguished Teaching Award

This award recognizes excellence in teaching by a faculty member over the course of a distinguished career. The awardee must demonstrate a well-articulated teaching philosophy that has developed through methodical examination and improvement of teaching and learning and must have had a sustained and documented impact on student learning both in and out of the classroom. The nominee’s qualifications might include activities designed to advance the quality and practice of teaching and learning, to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and/or to increase global and multicultural understanding. His or her qualifications might include effective teaching strategies to enhance student learning, such as active learning, student portfolios, and assessment. The awardee may demonstrate innovations that have influenced the methods and teaching effectiveness of other faculty. The recipient may apply to be the UNG nominee for the University System of Georgia Regents’ Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Donna Gessell, Professor in the Department of English, has served the University of North Georgia both as a faculty member and as part of the administration since 2005. She voluntarily teaches First Year Writing, often among the most challenging courses for incoming students, and excels in developing writing skills among first-year students. She teaches English as a second language (ESL) courses, and in that role, serves as liaison between the English Department and the Center for Language Education. Gessell has developed many Special Topics courses including courses concentrating on Jane Austen, Plague Literature, and Visions of Peace in East and West. She additionally serves as a Graduate Advisor and oversees capstone experiences for College of Education students. She has assumed many responsibilities and consistently delivers quality education to her students. In English 2050: Standard English Language, Gessell alleviates the common anxiety of studying English grammar and creates a scaffold to help students appreciate the benefits of learning how their language works. A former student remarked: “At my presentation, Dr. Gessell was in the front row, smiling and taking notes, ever devoted to student success.”

Find more information on Donna Gessell here.

Teaching Excellence Award for Tenured/Tenure-Track Faculty

The Teaching Excellence Award recognizes tenured or tenure-track faculty who have consistently demonstrated outstanding teaching. This includes all activities in which faculty members engage to facilitate learning by undergraduate, professional, or graduate students. The qualifications of these recipients include activities designed to advance the quality and practice of teaching and learning, to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and to foster global and multicultural understanding. These award-winning faculty members exhibit effective teaching strategies that enhance student learning, such as active learning, student portfolios, and classroom assessment techniques. Their commitment to students is also apparent in enriching academic activities outside of the classroom.

Martin Blackwell, Department of History, Anthropology, & Philosophy, is part of an exclusive group of faculty who teach in another language, as part of the Strategic Language program. Because of his high-quality instruction, Blackwell has advanced his students’ multicultural and global skill set. Recently, he helped develop UNG’s Real-Time Russia summer study abroad program in Abakan, Khakassia, and has instructed students as they travel to Moscow at the program’s end. After an overwhelmingly positive response to the program, a new study abroad program in Siberia was implemented.

Find more information on Martin Blackwell here.

Jennifer Graff, Department of Visual Arts, has been successful in her work as a ceramicist and her research and practices in professional development. Graff serves as the Chair for LEAP (Liberal Education and America’s Promise) at UNG. LEAP is an AAC&U (Association of American Colleges and Universities) initiative designed to provide institutions of higher education with a practical framework for delivering an inclusive liberal education in a complex and diverse world. Graff has been a member of the Governor’s Teaching Fellow Academic Year Symposia; in the past, she has been a recipient of the Presidential Innovation Award for her course development in art appreciation.

Find more information on Jennifer Graff here.

Johanna Luthman, Department of History, Anthropology, & Philosophy, has been spearheading the development of the BA program on the Gainesville campus. She has also led several study abroad classes. In the past, Luthman has participated in UNG’s High-Impact Educational Practices (HIP) Academy, where faculty refine skills that are essential to their own and their students’ success. By using a variety of HIP methods, Luthman has gained positive evaluations from her students who comment on her accessibility and her way of making class relevant and interesting. One student noted that “She is very organized and does all in her power to assist students earning the best possible grade.”

Find more information on Johanna Luthman here.

Teaching Excellence Award for Non-Tenure-Track Faculty

The Teaching Excellence Award for Non-Tenure-Track Faculty recognizes faculty who have consistently demonstrated outstanding teaching and actively engage with and facilitate learning in undergraduate, professional, and graduate students. Awards are given to educators who advance the quality and practice of teaching and learning. The recipients enhance student learning by using effective teaching strategies which help students develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Our award-winning faculty members’ commitment to their students is apparent in and outside of the classroom.

Heather Murray, Department of History, Anthropology, & Philosophy, has proven herself as an effective and popular instructor. She continuously receives positive evaluations from her students. According to one student, “She was wonderful! I have never had a class that I have enjoyed so much; I have never excelled in history, and she made it possible to learn and achieve greatness throughout the class.” Murray implements “tactile” learning into her classroom, in which students get hands-on historical learning experiences. For example, students use weaving instruments to understand pre-industrial textile manufacturing. Among her other accomplishments, Murray is developing the first online course on World Religions in partnership with DETI.

Find more information on Heather Murray here.

Kendra Sanderson, English Department, has created a classroom environment where students are inspired to use creativity and critical thinking, improving the students’ understanding of cultural diversity. Students are often heard recommending Sanderson’s classes to each other: “She keeps the material current and relevant to today.” Students are often heard recommending Sanderson’s classes to each other based on the fact that “She keeps the material current and relevant to today.” Sanderson, when discussing storytelling, allows students to dress in costumes and bring in food appropriate to the period. She ignites her students’ interest with her passion, creativity, and her commitment to their learning experiences.

Find more information on Kendra Sanderson here.

Barry Whittemore, Department of History, Anthropology, & Philosophy. Whittemore’s departmental specialty is Appalachian History and Culture as part of the Appalachian Studies minor. He has mentored and encouraged many students to present their work at professional conferences, especially the Appalachian Studies Conference. Regarding his History of World Religions class, students comment that he clearly communicates ideas, promotes critical thinking, and scholarly engagement. A former student stated: “Dr. Whittemore is everything one could expect of a seasoned educator in a college classroom. He is unapologetically demanding, rigorous, and fair.”

Find more information on Barry Whittemore here.