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Teaching and Learning Center Celebrates First Cohort of Teaching Excellence Institute


The Teaching and Learning Center (TLC) held an awards ceremony August 27 via Zoom for the first cohort to complete courses from its Teaching Excellence Institute.

Drs. Wanda Claro and Ayman Al Dayeh pose in the College of Dentistry with their medallions and certificates. Dr. Claro completed the Clinical Educators course and Dr. Dayeh completed the Instructors New to Teaching course.

The Teaching and Learning Institute is a series of year-long programs for instructors interested in focusing on a specific topic related to teaching and learning. Participants meet monthly beginning at the start of the academic year and complete projects and assignments related their specific tracks. Instructors that complete the minimum requirements receive a certificate and $500. The program is open to anyone who teaches UTHSC students.

“This is our first recognition ceremony,” said Tom Laughner, PhD, director of the TLC. “A chance to acknowledge the work that our instructors have done over the course of the year who have committed to working to continuously improve their teaching. We want to provide our students the best education possible, and we wanted to thank these instructors for doing that and acknowledging the importance of teaching.”

Forty-two faculty members were awarded certificates and medallions for completing courses in the past year in one of four areas: Instructors New to Teaching, Universal Design for Learning, Clinical Educators, and Pedagogy of the Social Determinants of Health. Each recipient was recognized by their college’s dean or associate dean during the ceremony and they also received a faculty well-being-themed box with goodies, including a collapsible water bottle, assorted teas, a stress ball, and more.

Participants received a faculty-wellness themed box from the Teaching and Learning Center.

“These four tracks of the Teaching Excellence Institute are so spot-on for our institution, as well as for our students,” Cynthia Russell PhD, RN, vice chancellor for Academic, Faculty, and Student Affairs, said during the ceremony. “Completion of these things is not inconsequential. Everything we would expect from our students, we got from you and more. You are in a position to be an evangelist for the Teaching Excellence Institute.”

The four certificates offered this year also fulfilled the requirements for one of the medallions in the TLC’s Medallion Program.

Launched in the fall of 2020, the TLC Medallion Program’s goal is to help UTHSC educators, including instructors and professors, master skills in areas related to teaching and learning, while providing evidence of growth in each participant’s professional development. Upon completion of nine medallion courses, faculty will receive the Expert Educator medallion, the highest level of achievement in the program, along with a one-time award of $3,000, and recognition at an awards ceremony.

Ryan Sheehy, PhD, received a medallion for completing the Instructors New to Teaching course.

“This program was a really great way to get to know the community of UTHSC,” said Ryan Sheehy, PhD, interim assistant dean of the Basic Science Curriculum in the College of Medicine, who completed the Instructors New to Teaching track. “I started this job in the middle of the pandemic and it was so nice to get to meet other faculty and connect with them.”

“Something really remarkable about this track (Clinical Educators) is that the activities, while they were directed at a common question or common goals and understanding, they were really tailored to our respective areas within education,” Angela Gullard, DMD, PhD, MDS, assistant professor and director of Implant Prosthodontics in the UTHSC College of Dentistry said. “The engagement and the understanding that the challenges we face within education, we’re not alone, and it was really wonderful having speakers and interactive activities during the workshops to really learn from each other.”

Dr. Laughner closed the ceremony by saying, “Those who have received these certificates, know that you are champions for those areas. I’ve always believed that our true strengths in terms of helping our faculty become better teachers is our own faculty sharing ideas with each other.”