Creating supportive learning environments that enable students to succeed is a hallmark of Charlotte faculty members, and this year’s nominees for the University’s teaching excellence awards exemplify that commitment.
For the Bank of America Award for Teaching Excellence, finalists are Paula Connolly, professor, English; M.Lyn Exum, associate professor, criminal justice and criminology; and Amy Good, associate professor, reading and elementary education.
Deborah Beete, senior lecturer, public health sciences; Jeanne-Marie “Ree” Linker, lecturer, mathematics and statistics; and Hannah Peach, assistant teaching professor, psychological science, are this year’s finalists for the UNC Charlotte Award for Teaching Excellence.
Recipients for each award will be announced Friday, Sept. 22, during a reception in the Popp Martin Student Union Multipurpose Room.
Learn more about each finalist below.
Bank of America Award for Teaching Excellence Finalists
Paula Connolly is an educator who shapes the narrative of students’ lives and experiences one interaction at a time. Her years of experience have taught her to meet students where they are, support them, push them to their best and provide them a safe space to learn and grow as scholars and individuals.
From large lectures to one-on-one instruction, Connolly strives to see every student as an individual person with specific needs and goals. She has also had a tremendous impact on the department and the fields of children’s and young adult literature.
“For me, teaching is about agency and engagement — about building it, sharing it and encouraging it in a classroom,” said Connolly. “My goal is to offer students a framework of stability built upon consistency and clear guidelines within which I remain agile enough to respond to the varied needs of students and the situations that arise. I also believe teaching is about creating a balance between encouraging and challenging students — letting them know you believe they can accomplish goals while giving them the direction and means to be successful.”
M. Lyn Exum has a reputation for engaging students and using unique teaching methods to encourage student learning. Known for his contagious enthusiasm when teaching and his ability to relate to his students, Exum is a one-of-a-kind educator who shapes students into their best critical-thinking selves.
Exum’s teaching philosophy, which stems from past educators in his life, includes enforcing student accountability while being attentive and meeting them where they are at that moment. He strives to be approachable, enthusiastic and an available resource and mentor.
“I believe that by showing my students that I find the course material to be exciting and interesting, they will become more engaged and invested in learning it,” said Exum. “I continuously search for ways to make complex ideas easier to understand. By making the big picture easier to grasp, students become more willing to dive into the smaller, more subtle nuances — allowing me to teach simply, while students learn deeply.”
Amy Good is an innovative educator who thrives on teaching students how to be great educators and advocates for each individual in their future classrooms. A former grade school teacher, Good uses her past experiences to foster curious and inventive students that will shape the future of education.
With a focus on social studies pedagogy, Good likes to take a democratic approach to her classroom, and instructs students on how to break down student resistance to studying historical topics. She accomplishes this through role playing, incorporating visuals and games and immersing students into history themselves through research projects.
“I believe the best teacher educators are those who innovate, reflect on their practice, consider ways to collaborate with others and inspire other teachers to see possibilities within their own classrooms,” said Good.
UNC Charlotte Award for Teaching Excellence Finalists
Deborah Beete is a lifelong learner who meets students where they are and pushes them to exceed their own expectations. A former practitioner in public health, Beete now uses her past knowledge and experiences to foster and encourage the next generations of academics and practitioners in her field.
Not only a profound academic, Beete is an advocate for anyone with differences. She has a devotion to making sure her classes, her department and the University are accessible for all students, and that diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging are integral aspects of student experiences.
“The aim of every course I teach is to nourish my students' personal, academic and professional growth,” said Beete. “I approach my teaching with the assumption that all students have the capacity to be successful. My goal is to provide a safe and healthy learning environment where they can develop into successful students and active and responsible citizens.”
Jeanne-Marie “Ree” Linker ’98, ’23 is devoted to statistics and makes sure her students leave with the same appreciation. Focused on adaptive and active learning, along with real-world applications, Linker ensures her students and peers are set up for success.
To achieve this transition of student perspective, Linker uses group work to encourage students to engage with one another, finds relatable applications of the course material and gives a one-on-one experience for every student she encounters.
“I love my students who come in capable and self-motivated, but the students who keep me in the classroom semester after semester are the ones who are going to fall in love with math and just don’t know it yet,” said Linker.
Hannah Peach ’14, ’15 is dedicated to student success, whether she encounters a student for five minutes or multiple semesters. A researcher focused on the connection between sleep and health, there is nothing languorous about her commitment to her students and faculty peers.
Her mantra is, “To be salt and light to all those I meet. To help students feel empowered, valued and cared for. To teach a life of health, knowledge and balance.” Keeping that mantra at the forefront of her teaching, she strives to create equal opportunities for every student by creating an environment of structure, consistency and organization, along with leadership that provides encouragement, warmth, accountability and guidance.
“I work to provide the best possible environment for students to thrive,” said Peach. “I hope my genuine devotion to students, passion for teaching and love of this University are evident in my efforts and activities throughout my teaching career.”
Honorable Mention Finalists
The following faculty members are honorable mention finalists for the Bank of America Award: Cheryl Brown, chair and associate professor of political science and public administration; David Thaddeus, professor of architecture; and Greg Wiggan, professor of middle, secondary and K-12 education. The following faculty members: Sayde Brais, associate teaching professor, communication studies; Oscar Lansen, teaching professor, history; and Mary McKenzie, senior lecturer, sociology are honorable mention finalists for the UNC Charlotte Award for Teaching Excellence.
The UNC Charlotte Award for Teaching Excellence honors full- or part-time non-tenure track faculty members who have at least five years of teaching service at UNC Charlotte (lecturers and adjunct faculty). Eligibility for the Bank of America Award for Teaching Excellence, first presented in 1968, is for full-time, tenured faculty members with at least seven years of service to UNC Charlotte.