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2020 Alumni Outstanding Teacher Awards

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

Jessica Grieser

Jessi GrieserJessi Grieser is an assistant professor of English linguistics in the Department of English. Her research focuses on English language in the US, particularly African American English, with a focus on its relationship to identities of place. She teaches undergraduate courses in English language, especially sociolinguistics. Her courses are known for their spirit of collaborative inquiry as students connect linguistic analysis to their own experience. Last year the university’s Graduate Student Association named her Graduate Professor of the Year.

What does this award mean to you?

Teaching is at the core of what we do as faculty. There’s only so much I can impact with my scholarship; there’s so much more I can do in the classroom as I teach my students how to navigate the world of knowledge. Stepping into the classroom is the best thing I do with my weeks, and I’m honored that my students feel the same.

Susan Riechert

Susan RiechertSusan Riechert is a Distinguished Service Professor and Chancellor’s Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She is director of the Biology in a Box program, which provides hands-on inquiry-based studies to secondary schools, and the co-director of VolsTeach, a minor for science and math majors that makes them eligible for secondary education accreditation. She currently offers honors biodiversity to around 80 students and has developed a research experience class for honors students as well as for future teachers in STEM disciplines.

What does being a Volunteer mean to you?

Being a Volunteer to me means sharing my knowledge and, in particular, my understanding of the wonders of nature with learners of all ages. My two outreach programs—VolsTeach, which offers secondary education teaching credentials to STEM majors, and the Biology in a Box project, which offers 11 thematic units to 140 school systems in Tennessee and to the worldwide audience via the web—are evidence of my Volunteer spirit.

Lynn Sacco

Lynn SaccoIn fall 2019 the hit NPR podcast Dolly Parton’s America devoted an entire episode to the voices of students from Lynn Sacco’s honors class of the same name, which inspired the series. Sacco, a professor of history whose research and teaching focus on the history of gender and sexuality, developed the course to provide students with a new way of thinking about the past and to reflect on their own roots and place in 21st-century America.

What does this award mean to you?

I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work with so many students over the years.

Erin Smith

Erin SmithErin Elizabeth Smith is a Distinguished Lecturer in the Department of English, the creative director of the Sundress Academy for the Arts, and the managing editor of Sundress Publications. Students in her course Public Writing work with local nonprofit organizations to raise their public profile, and the final project requires that they use a crowdfunding platform to raise money for their chosen nonprofit. To date she and her students have raised more than $150,000 through these projects.

What does being a Volunteer mean to you?

Being a Volunteer means serving your community, showing up for one another, and working hard to lift up those around you. It means listening to people, being kind, and doing good.