Teachers Awarded for Their Passion and Creativity in Impacting Students’ Lives

Lisa Woolfork talking to a class

Professor Lisa Woolfork is among 14 professors and five graduate instructors who recieved teaching awards Wednesday night. 

Taking graduate business students on a wilderness journey with the National Outdoor Leadership School; allowing students to design experiments with live animals to observe their behavior; greeting a refugee patient in his own language to teach medical residents cultural understanding – these are a few of the ways University of Virginia faculty engage their students in hands-on, innovative learning experiences that are life-changing, challenging and fun.

Fourteen professors and five graduate instructors received teaching awards Wednesday night in recognition of their impact not only on students, but also on their colleagues who nominated them.

“Teaching has an eternal effect,” President Teresa A. Sullivan said at the ceremony, held in Alumni Hall. “Those who learn from you in turn will teach others, and so on. Teaching weaves the generations into an historical fabric that connects us all.

“To teach is also to make order out of disorder, to transform confusion into understanding,” she said. "The act of turning incomprehension into knowledge, transforming inability into skill and defining ethical sensibilities is profoundly creative."

English professor Stephen Cushman and biology professor Sarah Kucenas also were recognized for receiving the state’s highest honor for professors in December, the 2014 Outstanding Faculty Award, given by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia and Dominion Resources. The U.Va. Provost’s Office administers the rest of the teaching awards handed out Wednesday.

Click on the names below to read what colleagues, students and the honorees themselves have to say about teaching and learning.

2015 Teaching Award Faculty and Graduate Teaching Assistant Award Winners

Alumni Association Distinguished Professor

Herbert “Tico” Braun, associate professor of history

Alumni Board of Trustees Teaching Award

Michael Kennedy, assistant professor, Curry School of Education

All-University Teaching Awards

Benjamin Converse, assistant professor of public policy and psychology, Batten School

Dr. Gerald R. Donowitz, Edward W. Hook Professor of Infectious Diseases and International Health, School of Medicine

Dr. John Gazewood, residency program director for Family Medicine

Yael Grushka-Cockayne, assistant professor of business administration, Darden School

Masashi Kawasaki, professor of biology

Adam Koch, associate professor of commerce

Suzanne Moomaw, associate professor of urban and environmental planning, School of Architecture

Andrew S. Obus, assistant professor of mathematics

Lisa Woolfork, associate professor of English

Excellence in Education Abroad

Peter A. Maillet, lecturer in global strategy and finance, associate dean for global initiatives, Commerce School

Excellence in Faculty Mentoring

David A. Leblang, J. Wilson Newman Professor of Governance and chair of the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics

School of Medicine Resident Teaching Award

Amanda Beer, radiology resident

Graduate Teaching Assistant Awards

Lindsey Brinton, biomedical engineering, All-University Graduate Teaching Award

Katelyn Kochalski, mathematics, Frank Finger Graduate Fellowship for Teaching

Kristen Lashua, history, All-University Graduate Teaching Award

Nicole Pankiewicz, politics, All-University Graduate Teaching Award

Elizabeth Sutherland, English, Class of 1985 Fellowship for Creative Teaching

Herbert “Tico” Braun, associate professor of history: Alumni Association Distinguished Professor

What his nominator says: “I’ve kept [a former student’s email] as a reminder of the kind of teacher that I want to be. [Braun] understands that, in the best tradition of U.Va. and the liberal arts, the intellectual enterprise should engage students in mind, body and spirit.”

What his former student says: “Teachers like Tico Braun are rare. … While I learned very much about the history of Latin America by way of his course, I also learned about humanity and about myself.”

What his colleague and former student says: I first encountered Tico when I enrolled in his survey course on “Modern Latin America” in the spring of 1986. … That course, more than any other I have ever taken, has become a model for my own teaching. … His teaching is guided by the belief we, as human beings, tend to project our own beliefs and prejudices onto the people we are trying to understand, and that we have a tendency to do this even when we think we are being open-minded about historical and cultural difference. Tico knows how to provoke students into breaking this habit, so that they can truly understand the past in something like its own terms. In doing so, not only do they learn a great deal about Latin America, but also about themselves and their place in the world.”

What Tico Braun says: “It is our common life, and by reading and thinking about others, about Latin Americans, perhaps we can, together, make our lives here more vital. The past is so vividly alive in Latin America. What are the traditions from American history, from this past here, that can help us move forward, so we can build on the beauty of the belief in human equality? I don’t teach much about those American traditions, but perhaps some seeds are planted in my students’ hearts and minds. We can learn about ourselves by learning from others. It’s fun.”

Michael Kennedy, assistant professor, Curry School of Education: Alumni Board of Trustees Teaching Award

What his nominator says: “He makes an impact on students by influencing what they know, how they think and how they develop into high quality special education teachers.

“Kennedy’s research focuses on how to develop multimedia tools to help students identified with disabilities learn content (history, science, math) in grades 6-12. He uses this research to inform his teaching. … Kennedy’s approach: the provision of multiple creative hands-on activities that bring laws and content to life for students and help them remember important content.”

What his colleague says: As a special educator, Michael is careful to make certain that students have access to information in a variety of formats. He both teaches this important concept and practices it.”

What his student says: “The energy he brings into the classroom is infectious and much of what I have learned within his classes has fueled my passion to teach individuals with special needs. The instruction he has provided me with over the two years has greatly increased not only my understanding of what it means to be an educator, but more importantly my appreciation for the art of teaching.”

What Michael Kennedy says: “I am responsible for teaching courses to future teachers, therapists and school administrators. I draw motivation, passion and a sense of purpose knowing that my students go on to serve children in schools across the commonwealth, nation and sometimes the world. … I teach a course which is the final one before students enter the field as practicing teachers. Therefore, there is incredible pressure to ensure the instruction and experiences I provide lead to professional readiness. I rise to this occasion because I love it, and because I must.”

Benjamin Converse, assistant professor of public policy and psychology, Batten School: All-University Teaching Award

What his nominator says: “I have been extraordinarily impressed with the thoughtfulness with which he approaches his teaching, his research and his life. … Ben discusses the importance of providing messages that are ‘sticky’ and that offer long-term value, and he emphasizes the importance of integrity in the teaching process.”

What Dean Allan Stam says: “His ability to inspire students to think about the challenges leaders face and to structure their approach to problem-solving in creative and innovative ways, while maintaining the basic principles of leadership, is unparalleled.”

What his colleague says: Great teachers … stimulate students to perceive connections they would otherwise not see, recognize opportunities they would otherwise miss and gain a deeper awareness of human nature. ... His courses combine powerful insights from social, cognitive and decision-making psychology with experiential learning exercises to teach students to be effective leaders.”

What his student says: “One of Professor Converse’s most important strengths as a teacher – and as a leader – is one of the leadership skills he teaches in class: he, more than any professor I have had, takes the time to understand and consider students’ motivations, and then to tap into them in order to inspire excellence.”

What Ben Converse says: “The core promise that I make to my students is that they will be more effective [leaders] ... if they are thoughtful about basic psychological principles. I believe this promise holds a special responsibility: I have to deliver not just on the outcome, but also on the process.”

Dr. Gerald R. Donowitz, Edward W. Hook Professor of Infectious Diseases and International Health, School of Medicine: All-University Teaching Award

What his nominator says: “Dr. Donowitz is eminently deserving of this recognition for his singular role in shaping the education of medical residents and interns over the last 15 years. … [He is] someone who has the highest expectations for the quality of medical care delivered by his student physicians. He sets an example to us all through his commitment to excellence and incredible work ethic.”

What his colleague says: “Instead of discussing patients in a room away from the inpatient ward, Jerry leads his team throughout the hospital to discuss and examine all patients on his team. This ‘real-time’ teaching allows learners to connect a patient to previous textbook learning and highlights Jerry’s breadth of medical knowledge.”

What his student says: “The most important lesson he taught me was to not fear the system, to understand that we are all here with the common goal of helping the patient, and that open discussion between team members, from the newest intern fresh out of medical school to the seasoned veteran physician, is critical to the medical profession. He teaches not only through his words, which are always passionate, powerful and honest, but more importantly, he teaches through his actions. He is the strongest patient advocate I have ever had the pleasure of working with.”

What Jerry Donowitz says: “It is the chance to make someone a better physician than they would have been had they not been with you in some instance, or in some clinical situation that is the most gratifying part of teaching.”

Dr. John Gazewood, residency program director for Family Medicine: All-University Teaching Award

What his nominator says: “Dr. Gazewood is an experienced clinician-teacher whose exceptional efforts on the part of U.Va.’s Graduate Medical Education programs have resulted in our recognition as one of the most outstanding Family Medicine Residency Programs in the country.”

What his colleague says: “John’s commitment to, and excellence in, teaching is inspiring, and his example helps us all strive to do a little better. His learners know how much he cares about their knowledge and love of the discipline of medicine, but more importantly they know that he cares about them as people and developing physicians.”

What his student says: “I was particularly impressed by his interaction with a Nepali refugee patient … [who] lay in bed listlessly most of the time. When Dr. Gazewood first entered his exam room, he greeted the patient with “Namaste” and a short bow – and to my shock [the patient] sat up, his eyes brightened and he returned the greeting in exactly the same manner. The mood of the room changed instantaneously; the patient was engaged, talking to Dr. Gazewood (via interpreter) and answering questions. Using the culturally appropriate greeting completely changed the tone of the interaction and showed great respect for the patient; I will be a much more sensitive and effective physician having learned that small but very important lesson.”

What John Gazewood says: “Creativity in medical education calls for understanding the varying stages of learner development and group and individual curricula that will address the varying needs of individuals. I believe that how we teach our learners and care for our patients is just as, if not more, important than the content of what we teach. I must model for learners what we expect of them.”

Yael Grushka-Cockayne, assistant professor of business administration, Darden School: All-University Teaching Award

What her nominator says: “She assessed that women students need to find good role models … and got a Mead Endowment grant to take female students to a TEDxWomen conference in D.C. to hear extraordinary women share their stories. She led a group of students on a leadership in the wilderness journey with the National Outdoor Leadership School so students could have an immersive experience in leading – and following.”

What her colleague says: Yael Grushka-Cockayne is among the finest classroom instructors I have ever seen in my 20 years of teaching, and furthermore, exhibits a level of devotion to the content of her classes that is almost intimidating in its care and focus. … She was able to generate so much excitement that at one point she walked off to the side of the classroom and just let the conversation move forward on its own – she had created the epitome of a Darden class experience: energized, challenging and engaging for every one of 64 students.”

What her former student says: “I was fortunate to be part of a new Darden course spearheaded by Professor Grushka-Cockayne focused on project management. … Her enthusiasm for the new subject matter was evident in every class session. As the director of operations of a new and growing impact investing firm, I now draw on lessons from that class daily.”

What Yael Grushka-Cockayne says: “Whether in my classroom, my office or my home, I try to foster a comfortable, non-threatening environment in which my students feel that they can be themselves, be vulnerable, experiment and take risks. My students’ courage, integrity and leadership have empowered me to take risks, too. I have been inspired to seek even more opportunities to engage and learn with them.”

Masashi Kawasaki, professor of biology: All-University Teaching Award

What his nominator says: “He teaches students about animal behavior through a combination of brief lectures and in-depth hands-on experiences. At the same time, he teaches them how scientists operate – how to figure out what questions to ask, how to design hypotheses, carry out experiments and look at results both conceptually and quantitatively to understand the answers. … He is a dedicated, approachable teacher whose passion for the material and understated presence encourages students to take learning and discovery into their own hands and take the first step to becoming scientists in their own right.”

What his colleague says: “He nurtures their inquisitiveness and creative thinking and because of that, the students excel. If faculty were allowed to take this class, I’d be first in line.”

What his student says: “Many of our experiments required that we not only obtain quantitative data from our animal models, but also that we observed their behavior and cared for them. We periodically made sure that the hamsters had enough food and water and that their cages were clean. … His classes reminded me why I was first drawn to biology.”

What Masashi Kawasaki says: “I allow students to design their own experiments. They decide what to measure, how many experimental blocks to set and which statistics to apply. I believe that hands-on experiences coupled with logical thinking are the best means of learning how scientific knowledge is created.”

Adam Koch, associate professor of commerce: All-University Teaching Award

What his nominator says: “He is masterful at helping students recognize how seemingly complicated topics can be reduced to a much simpler framework for understanding and analysis. … Students trust Adam, which is perhaps the most important trait for an effective teacher. They trust that he is careful with their time, careful with preparing them adequately and careful in his evaluation of their work.”

What a group of his former students say: We now knew, through the case studies and real-world examples, how management could use its accounting discretion to assess a firm’s financial health. … My first week on the job, I was tasked with making some adjustments to standardize and compare several companies’ financial statements. The adjustments were exactly the same as some we’d covered two months prior in Professor Koch’s class, and as such I passed this first on-the-job test with flying colors. [Another student] recently shared a similar story in which Prof. Koch’s material was a focus point of the materials she’d successfully prepared for a meeting with her current boss.”

What a group of his current students say: “[He] walked step-by-step through real-life cases, real accounting data and real companies. His fresh perspective created a stimulating classroom experience and allowed students to see how they could apply these concepts throughout their professional careers.”

What Adam Koch says: “I grew up in a family that loves to tell stories, and I bring to the classroom a lifelong passion for pacing, choosing details and building toward a conclusion. My teaching style revolves around illustrating the rules and principles of accounting through compelling real-world examples.”

Suzanne Moomaw, associate professor of urban and environmental planning, School of Architecture: All-University Teaching Award

What her nominator says: “She exemplifies in her teaching and scholarship the promise of what a public university can be and do, and [that] the work of our students and faculty can make a difference in the world.”

What her colleague says: Suzanne is more than a superbly strategic lecturer; [she is] also a convincing catalyst inspiring local community leaders to work with national foundations advancing education, employment and health support systems across Appalachia.”

What her student says: “Despite the urban planning department’s focus on traditional academic research and analysis (and her own considerable capacity for such research), she has this past year worked tirelessly to plunge urban planning students into a studio environment. The Petersburg, Virginia studio that she founded and co-taught with Professor Harriett Jameson presented its students with pressing problems to solve and actual clients counting on these solutions. As one of the students in that studio, I can attest that it was a daunting but extremely catalyzing experience. It forced me – and my classmates, I’m sure – to think more expansively, work more cooperatively, problem-solve more empathetically and act more professionally than has nearly any other course at the University.”

What Suzanne Moomaw says: “Teaching has allowed me to hone my own hopes and dreams and join the next generation in helping define theirs. … My philosophy is that I hope students find what I have to say as important as I find what they have to say.”

Andrew S. Obus, assistant professor of mathematics: All-University Teaching Award

What his nominator says: “He masterfully uses all the techniques that characterize a skillful and experienced teacher. But what makes his style unique is his ability to give clear, intuitive explanations of complicated mathematical concepts and to radiate enthusiasm about mathematics. … To complete the picture of his devotion to teaching mathematics, in summer 2011 and 2013 he co-organized summer workshops for math and science teachers in Liberia.”

What his colleague says: Andrew brought an incredible amount of energy into math club organization, as well as several excellent ideas, and these made an immediate impact. Math club attendance went up, the talks became more interactive, and I have a sense students enjoyed attending the math club much more.”

What his student says: “Before I even knew Dr. Obus very well, he was very receptive to the idea of guiding a research project and helped me draft a research stipend proposal (which was successful). … I began writing a paper on our topic … which Dr. Obus agreed to help me edit … and we are now in the process of publication. In summary, he has gone the extra mile to ensure that I reap the full benefits of mathematical research.”

What Andrew Obus says: “My primary goal as a teacher is to give each student a meaningful and positive experience in my course. What this means depends on the student, but as a baseline measure, ‘meaningful’ means that the student has deeply internalized the basic concepts of the course, and ‘positive’ means that the student has experienced excitement and success.”

Lisa Woolfork, associate professor of English: All-University Teaching Award

What her nominator says: (Re: Woolfork’s course on the literary and television phenomenon “Game of Thrones”) “… [T]he articulate, analytical responses of Lisa’s summer students to the queries of reporters left no room for doubt that real intellectual work was going on in her classroom (alongside a serious dose of fun). … She has done exactly what teaching faculty should, at their best, strive to do: focused her intellectual training and pedagogical skills on a cultural moment (present or past), reaching students ‘where they live’ in order to introduce them to the lifelong rewards of humanistic interpretation.”

What her colleague says: “Quite often, when encountering a talented undergraduate who has the potential to pursue a doctorate in the social sciences or humanities, I ask them: ‘Have you taken Professor Woolfork’s class?’ … One reason for this is the high expectations she places on her students with regard to their research projects. … Such rigor partly explains why Professor Woolfork has played a crucial role in preparing so many of our alums of color who are now pursuing advanced degrees.”

What her student says: “In her contemporary African-American literature seminar … the results were transformative: we learned how literature created opportunities to develop knowledge with implications for all sorts of disciplines. And more importantly, we learned what it means to be an independent thinker.”

What Lisa Woolfork says: “I like to think that students find my classes memorable because…I value and respect their contributions, and because I prioritize the learning enterprise that we’ve committed to embark upon together.”

Peter A. Maillet, lecturer in global strategy and finance, associate dean for global initiatives, Commerce School: Excellence in Education Abroad

What his nominator says: “Beyond his regular teaching, Peter has been a leader in ‘globalizing’ business education at McIntire, spearheading the truly international learning experiences that many McIntire students now enjoy. He was responsible for developing and then implementing McIntire’s M.S. in Commerce Global Immersion Experience, in which groups of 20 to 25 students spend four weeks abroad, now in five dispersed geographic areas of the world: Southeast Asia, North Asia, Central/Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East/India. Peter, himself, led four of these trips in the past six years – two in Latin America; two in Southeast Asia and one in China.”

What a group of his colleagues say: “Peter has opened the world to students in ways that transcend the classroom. Due to his leadership, vision and tireless efforts, global issues and experiences are now an integral part of life at McIntire. He melds more than 20 years of living abroad with a U.S. academic perspective in a way few can. As a result, students rave about him.”

What a group of his students say: “His ‘Global Finance’ course embodies the quintessential McIntire School experience by requiring students’ best efforts, capturing their full engagement and driving them to expand their own worldviews. … His teaching style effectively blended relevant materials with his own professional experiences while also motivating students to contribute to the classroom learning environment with their own independent research.”

What Peter Maillet says: “I hope to convey the genuine excitement and passion I have for all things global, whether it be culture, capital flows and political systems or emerging technologies from abroad. ... I seek to transmit that enthusiasm for the betterment of students’ lives and our society.”

David A. Leblang, J. Wilson Newman Professor of Governance and chair of politics department: Excellence in Faculty Mentoring

What his nominator says: “A critical aspect of faculty mentorship is leading by example. And this is perhaps where David’s record is most remarkable. He has been a tireless leader of our department and an astoundingly prolific researcher (both at the same time).”

What his colleague says: “His mentorship was not confined to formal annual meetings, but took place every day, as he left his door open and invited junior colleagues to stop by or knocked on their doors to discuss various issues.”

What his mentee and colleague says: “He always acts as if he has all the time in the world to listen to your problems and help you solve them. He remembers details. He reminds you, by example, of why being a professor is fun. He is straightforward about what he thinks. … He is extremely creative and resourceful in finding answers to problems.”

What David Leblang says: “My goal is to help foster a climate where colleagues can achieve their personal and professional goals. I am especially proud of the investments –both personal and financial- we have made in nurturing and developing female faculty.”

Amanda Beer, radiology resident: School of Medicine Resident Teaching Award

What her nominator says: “Amanda has been able to seamlessly integrate teaching into the daily clinical workload. … Calm, yet inspiring, efficient while finding time to interact with her colleagues, Amanda is one of those residents who make the flow of the day both efficient and fun for those working with her, including the staff and [attending physicians].”

What her student says: “She has a great ability and intuition of how to read our understanding of the subject and then scale the teaching appropriately. In that way, I never felt as though I knew nothing when there was much more I needed to learn.”

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