Alumni Outstanding Teacher awards are bestowed by the UT Alumni Association to recognize teaching excellence.
Chonika Coleman-King, assistant professor of urban-multicultural education, seeks ways to challenge undergraduate and graduate students to think critically about the world around them. Her drive to improve educational equity informs the way she helps to prepare preservice teachers to teach in urban classrooms that serve diverse populations. She pushes her students to see how their own identities and experiences affect their understanding of teaching and learning, community engagement, and notions of power and marginalization. She engages her students through her active teaching style and open encouragement of discussion and expression of ideas. She goes above and beyond to help her students grow, learn, and impact the world. A student said Coleman-King helped her “first semester at the university exceed expectation by developing and teaching an intellectually stimulating course that challenged and grew my preconceived knowledge.”
Being a well-liked mathematics professor is a difficult feat; however, Distinguished Lecturer Malissa Peery is one of the most popular math instructors at UT. Peery is active in curriculum development and has pioneered innovative teaching methods, including a reboot of one of the most despised courses, Math 119 College Algebra, by creating two online versions of the course. She also developed “flipped” versions of Math 119 and Math 125 Basic Calculus. In the flipped model, videos viewed outside class replace the lectures, allowing class time to be used for one-on-one instructor-student interaction. Peery is active in programs to help students from underrepresented groups attain academic success, and she earned the Tennessee Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Faculty of the Year Award in 2012. A student wrote that Peery is “by far the best gen-ed math teacher at UT. She explains in a way that you can understand and that helps you build on new concepts.”
Over the past five years, Jennifer Retherford, a lecturer in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, has helped more than 300 students successfully complete their senior capstone design projects. Her professional interests—civil engineering and effective educational design and application—drive her focus in guiding exemplary experiential learning projects. The projects must have the potential to be constructed within five years, have the commitment of a project lead and student mentor within the partner organization, present the potential to apply creative and innovative solutions, and be relevant to the civil engineering profession. Her students have contributed to two of UT’s most visible and strategically important multidisciplinary community outreach efforts, the Smart Communities Initiative and the Appalachia Project. Retherford engages students by pairing in- and out-of-class activities designed to promote the understanding of fundamental engineering concepts and professional practice. Small teams, periodic milestone-delivery deadlines, and detailed submittal review feedback ensure that students learn how to deliver top-quality projects.
In his approach to teaching writing and rhetoric, Jeffrey Ringer, an assistant professor of English, emphasizes that rhetoric is a critical tool relevant to students’ lives and that they can use it to work toward positive social change. Consistently highly rated in student assessments, Ringer has been honored for his teaching and helps guide rhetoric, writing, and linguistics graduate students with their dissertations. Ringer’s goals in designing his courses are to focus on rhetoric’s critical function; to help students see how rhetoric matters in their lives as students, citizens, and human beings; and to show the power of rhetoric as a public act. After taking one of his classes, a student noted, “This was probably the most intellectually stimulating class I took this semester.” Ringer’s students have published their works as letters to the editor, blog posts, and opinion pieces in local newspapers. Ringer hopes that introducing students to these concepts and encouraging open dialogue in class will encourage them to take part in public discussions of issues that matter to them.