The Office of Research on Teaching in the Disciplines

The Office of Research on Teaching in the Disciplines

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Dr. Bridgett Chandler, Honorable Mention for Excellence in Teaching Undergraduates and Dr. Tina Sloan, winner of the 2012 Excellence in Teaching Undergraduates


Dr. Vernessa Curry
Winner of the 2012 Excellence in Teaching Language Arts Award


Excellence in Teaching Awards:

The Office of Research on Teaching in the Disciplines

Teachers impact students in many ways each day. The University of Alabama’s Office of Research in Teaching in the Disciplines wishes to recognize Alabama teachers, pre-kindergarten through grade 12, who are creating excellence in their classes. Alabama classroom teachers have been asked to share their unique ideas, or to nominate another teacher who makes learning engaging, interactive, and memorable for students. A plaque for Excellence and certificates of Honorable Mention are being awarded in each of several disciplinary areas. Letters of Recognition also are being sent to teacher’s submitting lessons of quality who are not awardees. The awards are being presented by each teacher’s administrator in 2012 with award winners recognized during April and May.
Awards recognizing teaching excellence and honorable mentions are being given in English/Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, Special Education, Technology, and Undergraduate Education. The purpose of the Excellence in Teaching Awards program is, first, to recognize excellence in teaching, and second, to share valuable lesson plan ideas that have been demonstrated as effective in classroom settings. Faculty members across Alabama were invited to participate in the program.
Lessons were submitted for review by disciplinary subcommittees of the Office of Research on Teaching in the Disciplines. Reviews were conducted using a rubric that was available to faculty as they prepared their submissions. Among those reviewing submissions were faculty from University of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The reviewers represented deep pre-kindergarten through undergraduate education levels of classroom teaching experience. Among them were: Dr. Angela Benson, Ms. Donna Chesser, Dr. Lois Christensen, Dr. Janie Hubbard, Dr. Kagendo Mutua, Dr. Craig Shwery, Dr. Karen Spector, Dr. Dennis Sunal, Dr. Donna Turner, Dr. Elizabeth Wilson, Dr. Vivian Wright, and Dr. Jeremy Zelkowski. Each reviewer worked with planning for the awards, notifying teachers of the program, reviewing submissions, and reviewing submissions with the rubric. The process is overseen by Dr. Cynthia Sunal.
Dr. Vernessa Curry is the recipient of the award for Excellence in Teaching English/Language Arts. A teacher at Central Park Elementary school in the Birmingham City Schools system, her award was presented by Dr. Nicole Davis. Dr. Curry has been teaching for over 20 years and currently is a kindergarten teacher. She is a recent Early Childhood Education doctoral graduate from the University of Alabama Birmingham. Dr. Curry considers her submission as her “tried and tested” lesson. It has continued to impact students year after year, many into their young adulthood. She notes that countless students have returned to her classroom with the same remarks, “I remember when we made cinnamon toast!” She states, “They all say it as though it was one of the highlights of their life. It always gives me great pleasure to watch them say with it with big smiles on their faces.”
Ms. Jerica Vanoy is the recipient of the award for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics. Ms. Vanoy is her 4th year of teaching eighth grade pre-algebra and advanced pre-algebra. Her award will be presented by Mr. Mark Franks. She is a teacher at Brookwood Middle School in the Tuscaloosa County school system and serves as a coach for the Lady Panther Volleyball team. Ms. Vanoy previously was a high school teacher at Hillcrest High School for three years, teaching Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 3, and Graduation Exam Review. She also has taught at Shelton State Community College. Ms. Vanoy is a Brookwood High School graduate, a University of Alabama graduate, and currently is a Clinical Mentor Teacher (CMT) for the University of Alabama’s secondary mathematics pre-service teachers.
The winner of the Social Studies Excellence in Teaching award is Mr. Keith Minisman, a teacher at Hewitt Trussville Middle School in the Trussville City school system. Mr. Minisman’s award will be presented by Phyllis Faust. In his fourth year of teaching sixth grade American history and reading at Hewitt-Trussville Middle School, ge graduated from the College of Charleston with a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in history and later earned his Master’s of Arts degree in secondary education from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Currently, he is enrolled at Samford University, earning his Educational Specialist degree in Teacher Leadership.
Dr. Lesa H. Roberts won the Excellence in Teaching Honorable Mention in Social Studies certificate. Dr. Roberts is a teacher at Hampton Cove Middle School in the Huntsville City School System, whose award will be presented by Dr. Debi Edwards. A long time teacher, she has taught fifth and sixth grade for 24 years. In 1996, she received her National Board Certification and earned her Ph.D. in Reading/Literacy in 2007. Dr. Robert’s lesson integrates World War I history with mathematics. Students are asked to read a primary source document that introduces them to Alabama’s influenza outbreak during the late stages of the war. After reading and discussing a letter from a volunteer nurse working in an influenza ward, students are asked to create bar graphs that compare military death statistics and influenza death tolls across the world.
Ms. Chandra Brewer, a teacher at Rock Quarry Middle School in the Tuscaloosa City School System, won the Excellence in Teaching Honorable Mention award in Science. Ms. Brewer’s award will be presented by Andrew Maxey. She notes that she has spent her life surrounded with educating and working with children. In 2007, five years ago, she began teaching sixth grade Science for Tuscaloosa City Schools and has completed a Master’s degree. Ms. Brewer says her lesson
requires students to analyze the appearance of the Moon from space to determine how much of the Moon is illuminated by the Sun at various points in its orbit around the Earth. Students get the chance to model lunar phases by investigating how much of the Moon’s illuminated side is visible from Earth during the Moon’s orbit. This lesson allows all types of learners to be involved.
The winner of the Excellence in Teaching Undergraduates Award is Dr. Tina Sloan, a Professor at Athens State University in the College of Education. Dr. Sloan’s award will be presented by Dr. Debra Baird. Dr. Sloan currently teaches mathematics methods courses to undergraduate students within the College of Education. Her research interests include mathematics anxiety, learning styles, and first-generation college students. She models her lesson to undergraduate students enrolled in EL 424, Teaching Mathematics in the Intermediate Grades. Following the lesson, she notes that “I have found that pre-service teachers express an increased knowledge of best practices, interdisciplinary content, and confidence in teaching mathematics”.
The Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Honorable Mention Award winner is Dr. Bridgette W. Chandler, Department Head of Technical Education at Athens State. Dr. Chandler’s award will be presented by Dr. Debra Baird. This is Dr. Chandler’s seventh year at Athens State University. Prior to her present appointment, she served in the Cullman City Schools system as an administrator and teacher. Dr. Chandler’s lesson allows students to utilize their coursework through an experience showcasing their learning. The lesson provides “an opportunity for a student to choose an area of interest and engage in an in-depth exploration of the area while demonstrating problem-solving, decision-making, and independent-learning skills”.
Dr. Tammy Brown also has been awarded Honorable Mention for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. She is an Assistant Professor at the University of West Alabama in the College of Education. Her award will be presented by Dr. Ester Howard. Dr. Brown has taught grades pre-school through university levels over the past 17 years. She currently teaches undergraduate methods and graduate teacher education courses. She enjoys teaching science and mathematics lessons to students in local school systems and sharing ideas with teachers about ways to engage students in science. In Dr. Brown’s lesson, students are exposed to scientists and mathematicians in ways that challenge stereotypes of these professions. Her students are consistently engaged throughout this lesson in confronting their pre-conceptions about scientists and mathematicians and then learn about a part of history through a biography study. Dr. Brown notes, “All students learn something new about the chosen scientist and get excited about creating their own bio in a bag to present to their students”.
Ms. Janet Bavonese is also a winner of the Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Honorable Mention Award. Ms. Bavonese’s award will be presented by Dr. Jordan Barkley. She is an instructor at Jacksonville State University’s College of Education, teaching undergraduate courses in literacy. She previously served as Regional Reading Coach with the Alabama Reading Initiative, and was a literacy coach and classroom teacher in Florida. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree at the University of Alabama. Ms. Bavonese’s lesson involves her students in discussing the big ideas of planning, and then they analyze the lesson in chunks using the “think aloud” method. After each analysis, pre-service teachers plan a lesson using similar approach based on her modeled thinking. Ms. Bavonese indicates
This was an explicit and effective way to encourage students to make connections between what learners experience and what teachers intend. In other words, I took what they just experienced as learners and facilitated the thinking process that some pre-service teachers find difficult to make—bridging from the roles of learner to teacher.
Mr. Joe Creamer Jr., a teacher at Electic Middle School in the Elmore County School System, and Ms. Angela Williams, a teacher at Rock Quarry Middle School in the Tuscaloosa City School System, Alabama were awarded Recognition for their social studies lesson entries. Mr. Mike Hobson, a teacher at Shades Valley Technical Academies in the Jefferson County School Systems, received Recognition for his lesson using technology.

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