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2016 Alumni Outstanding Teacher Awards

Alumni Outstanding Teacher awards are bestowed by the UT Alumni Association to recognize teaching excellence.

Sarah Curtis

Sarah CurtisFour key principles are at the core of Sarah Curtis’s teaching philosophy: practicing empathy, building relationships with students, creating a safe environment in the classroom, and encouraging critical thinking and reflection. Curtis is an academic advisor for the College of Social Work and teaches Introduction to Social Work and Honors Introduction to Social Work. She has a passion for social work and seeks to help students achieve success. One student wrote, “Mrs. Curtis’s encouragement for her students, passion for the profession, and the coherence of her class make the future seem exciting. She is dedicated to each of her students, giving daily encouragement, responding promptly to concerns, and going above and beyond what is required of her.”

Ronald Kalafsky

Ronald KalafskyRonald Kalafsky has worked to develop materials and projects in each of his courses that help students see why chosen concepts are relevant to their lives. Kalafsky is an associate professor and the director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Geology. His contributions to learning reach past the classroom. He contributes to the Haslam Scholars Program and created a First-Year Studies course, “Cities in the Cinema.” The head of the geography department wrote, “Dr. Kalafsky has shown leadership and vision that have helped modernize and improve our undergraduate program and curriculum. He led the faculty in a significant reevaluation, revision, and rebranding of geography courses and the development of five new concentrations for the geography bachelor’s degree.”

Elisabeth Schussler

Elisabeth SchusslerElisabeth Schussler believes meaningful learning has three components: thinking, reflection, and the ability to link concepts. Schussler is an associate professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the director of biology teaching and learning. She engages her students, even during large lecture classes, through her active teaching style. She is passionate about training graduate students to be the next generation of teachers. A colleague wrote, “Excellence in teaching can be indexed at a number of levels, from in-the-classroom success to developing a broad and long-term vision for a curriculum. Dr. Beth Schussler is a pioneer and leader at all levels. The University of Tennessee is lucky to have such a dedicated teacher, and teacher of teachers.”

Anthony Welch

Anthony WelchAnthony Welch, associate professor of English, seeks ways to maintain relationships with his students outside the classroom. He has organized widely popular marathon oral readings and orchestrated a study abroad course in Stratford and London. Welch is a specialist in English Renaissance literature, particularly works written between 1500 and 1700. He brings a learned and engaging presence to the classroom. His students cherish his ability to make difficult texts and their rich historical contexts come to life in sophisticated and imaginative ways. A student wrote, “He brings a fresh, lively outlook to the material he teaches. He has a captivating voice, he does more work for the class than any other teacher I’ve ever had, and he makes slightly dry material very entertaining and extremely thought-provoking. I wish I could stay at UT another year just to take more classes with him.”

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