UNCG recognizes Teaching Excellence Award winners

Posted on April 12, 2021

flowers and library facade
flowers and library facade

Every spring, there is much to celebrate for students who are graduating, or just concluding a successful first year in their program. UNC Greensboro also celebrates the faculty who have supported students in the classrooms, in the labs, in preparing for their careers, and in community outreach.

Dr. Rebecca MacLeod was honored this year with the UNC Board of Governors Excellence in Teaching Award, several faculty members were recognized with Mentor and Advising Awards, two were honored with Research Excellence Awards, and four were honored with the additional campus-wide teaching awards. View their video feature here and read the profiles below to learn about their teaching and how their students have experienced their support.

Mary Settle Sharp Award for Teaching Excellence
Dr. Sarah Daynes, Professor, Department of Sociology

portrait of woman
Dr. Sarah Daynes

“Teaching is what I love most about my job as a professor, so receiving this award is especially meaningful. I think that UNCG is quite special in that regard: teaching is really valued and supported here. There is a lot of institutional support; the workshops and conferences I have attended have made me a better teacher; I am especially grateful to everyone at the University Teaching and Learning Commons, for the great training they provide but also for their enthusiasm and care. Another thing that’s really great here, is that we are surrounded by colleagues who also care about teaching. I know so many of them who deserve this award at least as much as I do, and I believe that I have learned from them most of what I know about teaching. Sharing our experiences, talking about teaching, visiting their classes, have been truly inspiring to me.” 

Dr. Daynes is a recipient of the Globally Engaged Undergraduate Research Award and the QEP Global Engagement Award and has served as new faculty mentor and a graduate teaching fellow mentor. She is currently director of graduate studies in her department and is chair-elect of the Faculty Senate. Her guiding idea in teaching sociology is to accompany students in their self-led learning, and the driving force behind her teaching is an understanding of education as the practice of freedom. Colleagues recall her ability to involve students in discussions of difficult concepts and ideas by relating the theories to their current interests. Her former students especially remember how she prepares students for their future careers.

Graduate student Ena Prskalo shared:

“Dr. Daynes truly encompasses what it means to be a mentor. She goes out of her way for students; she is willing to take on anything and everything; she encourages her students to pursue their own paths and find their specialties; she appreciates and encourages intellectual diversity; she is determined to accommodate various learning styles; she consistently reaches out to her students with an assortment of resources; she makes herself available even when school is out of session; and she consistently reinforces the validity and power of her student’s work. Dr. Daynes has successfully managed to make me feel confident about what I am doing with my research and with my career. When thinking about the kind of professor and mentor I want to be to my own students, please know that Dr. Daynes is one of the first educators that comes to mind. I strive to be the same beacon of light to others like she was to me.”

James Y. Joyner Award for Teaching Excellence
Dr. Sally E. Koerner, Assistant Professor, Department of Biology

woman with trees
Dr. Sally Koerner

“Teaching is such a wonderfully rewarding occupation, and to be honored like this is just icing on the cake. I am so proud that we’ve been able to provide nearly 500 students with hands-on research experiences in the last four years through incorporating undergraduate research into courses. But this has been a challenging year for the whole world, and every educator and every student out there deserves an award for finding ways to keep learning!”

Since joining UNCG in 2017, Koerner has established a research program with over $1.9 million in funding and which exposes hundreds of students, both graduate and undergraduate, to research in ecology each semester. She also mentors students independently and has an active international research program funded through USDA grants spanning a geographic area from South Africa, to Montana/Wyoming/Kansas, to North Carolina. Under Koerner’s efforts, 125 students attended the Longleaf Alliance Biennial Conference virtually and gained real-world experience directly related to the work in their courses. This year, an additional 100 students will be attending the same conference.

In course evaluations, students have written “Koerner is approachable, motivating, and shows genuine interest and concern for her students…” and
“Koerner achieves the learning environment in part by integrating her research into her teaching.”

 Department head of Biology Malcolm Schug said of Koerner’s work:

“Her research is a foundation for her teaching passion. And she is truly passionate about teaching, integrating her research talents, mentorship skills, and clarity of her scientific approach to big questions directly into her teaching at every level. Her curriculum development is superb, her teaching skills emphasize the scientific method, research, and how scientists, and particularly biologists, think about the world. She changes how students think about science from learning facts and concepts to developing both thinking and methodological skills to be scientists themselves. I see it at every level of her teaching from our core course in Ecology (BIO 301) for majors, to her graduate level courses in her specialty area. So, this is her strength, and her passion.”

Anna Maria Gove Award for Teaching Excellence
Kimberly M. Cuny, Senior Academic Professional, Department of Communication Studies

Kim Cuny

Kim Cuny teaches Communications Studies and is an adjunct assistant professor in Theatre and part-time lecturer in Public Affairs. She has also served as director of the Speaking Center since 2003. She is a past recipient of the College of Arts and Sciences Teaching Excellence Award and the Outstanding Service Award from the National Communication Association. Her teaching extends the classroom and into real-world experiences for her students through her community engagement work.  She has mentored students as they single-authored more than 20 speaking center-related academic publications.

 A former undergraduate student Claudia Grainger, B.S. Community Recreation and Event Planning, 2017 wrote about Cuny :

 “Kim Cuny was a crucial part in my college career, promoting my academic, professional, and personal growth. Kim made the information relevant and applicable to my goals and communicating style while also challenging me to think critically. Professionally, Kim worked to make my work in the center applicable to my industry and interests. The most impactful experience was assisting with a production of a theatrical performance for community members with disabilities. It was a beautiful experience that utilized my professional and personal interests and skills in communication. Personally, Kim has been a mentor and role model. Every day I saw Kim express genuine care and interest in our goals and personal lives, forming relationships with each consultant by not only listening to what they were saying but taking the time to understand our needs.”

Online Excellence Award
Dr. Elizabeth Lewis, Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Mathematics and Statistics

woman on beach
Dr. Elizabeth Lewis

“Receiving the award for excellence in online education for the year the education world abruptly was thrown completely online is an honor I will not soon forget!  All educators were challenged with something we were not sure was possible, and we rose to the occasion.  To be chosen as a leader on that front is not only humbling, but it also further justifies the incredible amount of work that went into designing and creating excellent online courses for our students.”

Dr. Lewis teaches both undergraduate and graduate mathematics and mathematics education courses. She seeks to help students solidify foundations in math in order to empower them to work past their fears and approach new levels with confidence. She also strives to build constructive attitudes toward mathematics, taking into account that students learn best through a variety of teaching and learning styles. In both in-person and online formats, her course designs also works to convey the beauty and elegance of mathematics to students, in an environment of respect and dedication.

Recent undergraduate student Morgan Rector said of Dr. Lewis’ course:

“Through my five years of experience in college, I’ve never found a more beautifully designed course page. Dr. Lewis has crafted a gorgeous layout that is both functional and practical. Each individual component is extremely straightforward and very accessible. The pieces she has developed are single handedly the best online classwork I have ever participated in. I’ve also never come across such elegant notes and handouts. There is no website or other video channel that can compare to what Dr. Lewis has created. She is able to explain each problem clearly by giving explanations and examples in both verbal and visual forms while being entirely electronic. I feel as though I truly understand the material on every level it is presented through her online teaching. There is care placed into every single component of these Calculus classes. Everything Dr. Lewis has created has had a wonderful cohesiveness that truly positively affected my learning.”

Story assembled by Susan Kirby-Smith, University Communications, and Marisa Gonzalez, University Teaching and Learning Commons
Photography by Martin W. Kane and courtesy of Sarah Daynes, Sally Koerner, Kim Cuny, and Elizabeth Lewis


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