Three faculty members received teaching awards during the Annual Celebration of Teaching Excellence hosted by the Teaching and Learning Center at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. The TLC Teaching Awards recognize and celebrate excellence in teaching and scholarship to foster an environment that values and rewards teaching.
Aditi Kesari, PhD, MBBS, assistant professor in the Department of Medical Education in the College of Medicine, received the Active Learning Award. Stephanie Lancaster, EdD, MS, associate professor and program director in the Department of Occupational Therapy in the College of Health Professions, received the Inclusive Teaching Award. Leslie Hamilton, PharmD, FCCP, FCCM, FNCS, professor in the Department of Clinical Pharmacy and Translational Science in the College of Pharmacy in Knoxville, received the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award.
The Active Learning and Inclusive Teaching Awards were selected by faculty and students. The Scholarship of Teaching Award was selected by faculty. This is the first year these three top awards have been given.
During the TLC ceremony, held virtually on Friday, 47 faculty members were recognized for completing medallions or certificate programs offered by the Teaching and Learning Center. Additionally, five graduate students received medallions toward their Future Educators Academy co-curricular certification. All the award winners are listed on the TLC’s 2023 Celebration of Teaching Excellence webpage.
This is the third year for the TLC celebration. Each faculty member awarded a medallion or certificate received a gift box containing a plaque and/or medallion. The box also contained gifts chosen around a theme. This year’s theme was teaching tools. Each awardee received a drawstring bag with Play-Doh, playing cards, dice, and a ball, along with a card with instructions for using these toys to engage students during class.
Participants said the TLC programs have been helpful in honing teaching skills.
Laura Reed, DNP, DNP, an associate professor in the College of Nursing, said she feels earning a Clinical Educator Medallion changed her approach to clinical education. “As a clinical program director and preceptor, I learned new teaching techniques to use in the clinical setting to assess a student’s knowledge level and then organize the clinical educational experience to meet a student’s needs,” she said. “The ability to tailor the clinical experience to the individual student has proven to be much more productive for the student and less frustrating for me as the preceptor. I now have an approach that is organized and directed to helping the student learn in the clinical setting.”
Vrushali Abhyankar, MDS, MS, an associate professor in periodontology, has completed two programs with the TLC and is working on a third. “Though we all have significant experience in clinical skills, we are not always able to translate this into good teaching practices,” Dr. Abhyankar said. “When I was a student, we were expected to essentially learn by osmosis, observe and be around the clinician and emulate what they are doing. There was not much active teaching. In effect, my teaching style was the same. But with changing times, the student body and their exposure are drastically different from myself. The courses I have done with TLC have made me aware of this disconnect and to improve my teaching style.”
“This celebration is an indication of UTHSC faculty’s commitment to our students,” said Tom Laughner, director of the TLC. “The time and effort they spend on the Teaching Excellence Institute and medallions is significant. I’m glad that the TLC team is able to provide a wealth of resources to help them continue to develop and hone their teaching skills.”
Cindy Russell, PhD, RN, vice chancellor for the Office of Academic, Faculty, and Student Affairs, spoke during the celebration, applauding the work of the TLC team. “With the current eight tracks in the Teaching Excellence Institute and 17 unique medallions that lead to recognition with an Expert Educator Medallion, the intellectual capital that goes into making these programs a reality is immense.”
“Completion of any one of these programs is not inconsequential, as they require some of your most precious resources, time and energy,” she said. “Your commitment to your professional development in the area of teaching and learning is commendable and something we honor and celebrate today. Whether making teaching more intentional as a result of understanding your teaching philosophy, providing a support system and safe space to students, incorporating new technologies or other practices, this additional work you have undertaken helps you as faculty have a better teaching experience and helps students have better learning outcomes.”