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President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching goes to 11

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  • March 05, 2012

Eleven will be honored with the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching during the annual Faculty Awards Convocation at 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 7 in the UAB Alumni House.

Other faculty to be honored during the ceremonies include Stephen Yoder, assistant professor and honors program director in the School of Business, the Odessa Woolfolk Community Service Award; and Robin Foley, Ph.D., associate professor of Materials Science & Engineering and the Electron Optics Labs manager, The Ellen Gregg Ingalls/UAB National Alumni Society Award for Lifetime Achievement in Teaching.

The 2012 honorees for the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching represent each school, the College of Arts & Sciences and the Joint Health Sciences departments:

mark_bevensee_webMark Bevensee, Joint Health Sciences

Bevensee, associate professor of physiology and biophysics, takes complex concepts and makes them not just understandable but also enjoyable for students. “I went from hating everything about renal to loving it,” says one former student. A colleague adds, “Mark is able to simplify these complex concepts so that students can understand and appreciate the workings of the kidney.” His teaching success is due to his own preparation and knowledge of the subject and also to his availability to his students. “Mark spends a considerable amount of time outside of the classroom meeting with individual students and small groups to answer their questions,” says a former colleague. “I have witnessed many of these interactions and was impressed by his level of dedication to explaining the material and in his respect of the students’ point of view and the reasons behind their questions.”

john_coke_webJohn M. Coke, Dentistry

Coke, professor of dentistry, “represents everything a great teacher and mentor can aspire to be,” says one colleague. He is lauded for his clinical skills, professional behavior and collegial demeanor. One former resident recalls his willingness to play — and suffer  — pranks with “a fun attitude” that “is contagious among the residents. He is gifted at using humor to create a positive learning and working environment.” That humor, however, is balanced with a dedicated professionalism. “I learned early in my residency from Dr. Coke to treat the entire patient by listening and empathizing with what they are going through,” the former resident says. It is no surprise that, as another colleague notes, “his teaching skill with residents is a key reason why the general dentistry residency at UAB has such a successful track record.”

leslie_mcclure_webLeslie McClure, Public Health

McClure, associate professor of biostatistics, believes that to teach effectively, one also must be a good student. “Outstanding teachers are lifelong learners,” she says. She incorporates this into her everyday work by deepening her knowledge of her subject area, teaching a broad array of courses to diversify her teaching experiences and getting to know her students on a personal level to better understand how to teach them. McClure is one of the most sought-after faculty for dissertation committees, which “reflects her deep understanding of statistical concepts and also her ability to communicate these concepts to students during this critical period of training,” says a colleague. “Dr. McClure is an excellent teacher,” says one former student. “She is always willing to help — one of the finest instructors in the department.”

teena_mcguinness_webTeena McGuinness, Nursing

McGuinness, professor of nursing, teaches by example and is a role model both to students and to fellow teachers. “She shows us through her own behavior, demeanor and attitude how we should treat patients and others we come into contact with,” says a former student. “While encouraging our success and equipping us with the tools we need to succeed, Dr. McGuinness has always held high expectations for us and never has allowed us to take the easy route.” A colleague recalls the enthusiastic ways her students have responded to her guidance, including one who burst into song on the last day of class. Additionally, says the colleague, “As a junior faculty member, I consider it an honor to work with a more seasoned professor who has treated me as her equal from day one.”

sylvie_mrug_webSylvie Mrug, Arts & Sciences

Mrug, associate professor of psychology, is a prolific researcher, mentor of a substantial number of students and notoriously strict grader. Yet she also is a favorite among students, who describe her as “very responsive,” “very fair,” “prepared and professional,” “accessible,” and “flexible.” “She is known for having high expectations of students, while at the same time helping them balance their personal and professional lives,” says a former student. Her mentees have performed research and authored award-winning papers under her guidance. She is a role model for female students entering the scientific field and sought out students from under-represented minority groups to offer mentorship. “I never would have expected me, as an African-American, first-generation college student, to accomplish all the things I have accomplished as an undergraduate,” says another former student. “I know all of this was possible under the tutelage of Dr. Mrug.”

tonya_perry_webTonya Perry, Education

Perry, associate professor of curriculum instruction, has a daunting job: to educate students in their chosen fields and also to prepare them to educate others. She rises to the task by constantly updating her own knowledge and modeling best teaching practices to her classes. “Dr. Perry exemplifies the highest standard of ethics and professionalism in her work,” says a colleague. Her students praise both her high expectations and her willingness to help students attain them. Says one former student, “She motivates her students to excellence and doesn’t accept anything less.” Much of that is because Dr. Perry holds herself to that same standard of excellence. “I try to model for students the importance of growing as a teacher,” she says. “I want them to know that all effective teachers are learners and constantly reflect on their practice — including me.”

talat_salama_webTalat Salama, Engineering

Salama, associate professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering, is a favorite among students for the enthusiasm he displays for his field and for the individual attention he provides. “His passion for teaching creates an exciting and engaging learning environment for his students,” says a colleague. A former student praises his open-door policy, saying, “Dr. Salama is a diligent, hard-working, sincere instructor who gains the respect and admiration of his students.” “He is kind, cares for his students and really breaks down the material for you to understand,” says another. Salama sees those interactions as an essential aspect of his teaching philosophy. “All students have a unique and valuable perspective, a life history and a need to be heard,” he says. “Too often students are not heard because they are not listened to in the rush to teach them.”

elizabeth_steele_webElizabeth Steele, Optometry

Steele, assistant professor of optometry, was selected by unanimous decision to receive the President’s Award for the School of Optometry, through praise by students and colleagues alike. Students show appreciation for her positive attitude and her willingness to devote extra time to guidance, encouragement and mentoring. “One of Dr. Steele’s strengths is her ability to communicate with students in a positive, constructive manner at a time when they are highly anxious” about an upcoming exam, one colleague says. Other faculty appreciate her passion and dedication as coursemaster of one of the school’s most challenging sequences, taking on a workload far above that which would be expected and still sharing a positive attitude with those around her. “She is always encouraging, energetic and willing to provide a helping hand whenever she is needed,” says another colleague. “Being able to work with Beth always makes my job more enjoyable.”

joseph_van_matre_webJoseph Van Matre, Business

Van Matre, professor of business, is embarking on his 41st year of service to UAB. He brings to the job four decades of experience, constant learning, dedication and passion. “Joe is one of the few faculty you can count on to be in the office every day from early in the morning until late in the day,” says one colleague. “His availability allows him to provide personalized attention to students.” Throughout his career, he has continued to advance his knowledge with seminars and courses, “at considerable personal expense. His longevity, ability to teach challenging material and recognition from business leaders years after taking his class are example to the rest of us as educators.” Says a former student, “He inspired us to do more, not to be afraid of learning and to vow to make a positive difference in our chosen career.”

jonathan_waugh_webJonathan Waugh, Health Professions

Waugh, professor in the respiratory therapy program, is a teacher of students and other teachers. In addition to his daily work, he also leads an enrichment program guiding and encouraging new faculty members. “I can say unequivocally that Jonathan is the best teacher I have ever met,” says one colleague, a beneficiary of the program. Another lauds his innovative teaching methods: “He is noted for his dynamic and interesting presentation of material and his ability to explain difficult concepts,” the colleague says. “Jonathan’s enthusiasm was contagious among the faculty. He encouraged many faculty who had been using the same teaching methods for years to consider a new approach.” Says yet another, “In the classroom, he has the ability to bring his lectures to life, like a painter painting vivid images on a canvas.”

lisa_willett_webLisa Willett, Medicine

Willett, associate professor of general internal medicine, is known for her unwavering commitment to the well being of her patients, trainees and house staff. “Her perspectives as a woman pursuing an academic career have helped many of our residents as they make career choices,” says a colleague, and she and co-authors have published an academic paper describing difficulties and barriers female residents face. Residents appreciate her “biography rounds,” in which she gets to know her trainees individually and personally.

“Time and time again, I have seen her open herself up to students, interns and residents. Not only is she a kind ear, but she also is a problem-solver and a mentor,” says one resident. Says another, “Although I have had many advisors over the years, Dr. Willett has perhaps been the best. She has helped me improve in all aspects of my career and has been supportive in every endeavor.”