The Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) honored Stony Brook University educators with the 2021 CELT Celebration of Teaching Awards on Thursday, May 6.
The virtual event acknowledges the efforts of Stony Brook educators who use exceptional teaching practices, dispositions, and proficiencies. The winning instructors demonstrate outstanding passion for teaching, personal concern for students and a devotion to inspire and nurture a learning desire in their students.
The winners in the five award categories this year are:
• Excellence in Teaching a Synchronous Online Course – Virginia Coletti, School of Nursing
• Excellence in Teaching an Asynchronous Online Course – Sangeet Honey, Undergraduate Biology
• Excellence in Assessment – Sue Ryan, School of Professional Development
• The David L. Ferguson Award for Inclusive Teaching – Joseph M. Pierce, Hispanic Languages & Literature
• 2020-2021 COVID Teaching Hero Award – Georges Fouron, Department of Africana Studies
In addition to the awards, students will “Thank a Teacher” who made a difference in their learning experience at Stony Brook. More than 200 thank-you messages were submitted, and they were shared during the event.
The awards and the winners:
The Excellence in Teaching a Synchronous Online Course award recognizes faculty who have demonstrated excellence in teaching an online course that brings students and instructors online at the same time each week. The recipient demonstrates flexibility, resourcefulness, and empathy with students while consistently applying pedagogical best practices for the online space.
Virginia Coletti has been teaching at Stony Brook University for 31 years and teaches psychosocial mental health nursing — a required psychiatric course for undergraduate general nursing students. In her class, she uses clinical case studies. There are approximately 80 students in her synchronous online course.
Coletti’s success in the synchronous course is based on being flexible, relaxed, and using technology to create collaboration. She intentionally incorporates “six seconds of silence” in her online discussion with students that allows space for everyone to think, respond, and engage with each other. She said it is important to be clear and up front with students, letting them know ahead of time how discussions will be facilitated. She uses break out rooms to get students working in teams as they address case studies.
The Excellence in Teaching an Asynchronous Online Course award recognizes faculty who have designed their course using the scholarship of pedagogy for an online class where students and faculty come in and out of the course at different times but all work together to meet the same learning objectives on a shared timeline. The recipient has demonstrated that their course is student-centered, fosters community, engages students with the content and each other, and effectively and judiciously incorporates appropriate educational technologies.
For Sangeet Honey, teaching BIO 315 Microbiology asynchronously is dependent on informing, engaging, supporting, and understanding students while also being flexible and empathetic. Sangeet spends a great deal of time and consideration on his course design and iterative feedback. Providing students with information regarding expectations, technological needs and assessment policies are key to student success.
Honey controls the flow of content to keep students engaged and on track. He facilitates student engagement in his large online course of more than 400 students by breaking the course up into teams or groups in Blackboard where he and his TAs are able to manage questions, office hours, and discussion more effectively.
The Excellence in Assessment award recognizes faculty who have implemented a variety of evidence-based assessment techniques such as authentic, formative, and summative assessments. The recipient has designed assessments that are creative and provide meaningful feedback to support student learning.
Sue Ryan’s background in coaching informs her teaching in her graduate courses in leadership. She feels she must meet students where they are and she sees teaching as “her responsibility to take them someplace new; a new place of thinking, of collaborations, self-discovery… or I don’t think I’m doing my job.” In the course LSF 504 Effective Professional Action & Leadership, Sue has several innovative assessments that help students make connections to course concepts. In one, she uses discussion boards where she asks students to post lyrics to a song that reflect students’ values and their thinking.
Ryan also has students select someone from history that exemplifies leadership for a case study analysis. Sue has found that connecting the curriculum to student’s own lives leads to real engagement and transformation for students. “It allows me to do my job in a better way. I look at it, like there’s 20 people who could teach me something… Let them bring their gifts.”
The David L. Ferguson Award for Inclusive Teaching recognizes faculty who incorporate diversity into the curriculum by including readings, case studies, and images that challenge the status quo and include often underrepresented and marginalized voices.
This award was named after the late Dr. Ferguson, who was a Distinguished Service Professor, former Department Chair of Technology and Society, and the founding director of Stony Brook’s Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching. It seeks to recognize faculty members who intentionally design their courses so students can critically engage with the course concepts. Furthermore, awardees in this category use an inclusive syllabus with language that encourages students to feel they belong and can succeed in the academic space.
Following in Ferguson’s footsteps, Joseph M. Pierce focuses his teaching on being transparent with students about inviting them into a conversation where they engage critically with difficult topics. In doing so, students situate themselves in relation to an author, a body of work, a canon, a discipline. In his SPN 612 Decoloniality and Queer Studies course, that means questioning some of the disciplinary boundaries that he learned in graduate school. “The knowledge that is taken as standard and normative has often been produced through violence and erasure,” he said.
“Questioning intellectual standards opens up the possibility to ask questions that students haven’t had the opportunity to ask,” but that can bring students to a more ethical relationship with scholarship, Joseph said.
The 2020-2021 COVID Teaching Hero Award recognizes faculty who demonstrated exceptional resilience, flexibility, and empathy in teaching during the pandemic while maintaining academic rigor and teaching effectiveness. Georges Fouron is a veteran professor who teaches in the Africana Studies Department as well as in the Distributed Teacher and Leader Education program. He has close to four decades of teaching experience at Stony Brook.
Despite the challenges involved in moving to an online teaching format, Georges displayed grace under pressure as he adapted to the increased use of technology in the virtual classroom. Referring to the educator John Dewey, Georges remarked that teachers “shouldn’t be strangers to the realities of students’ lives.” Teaching during the pandemic taught him that students are resilient in the face of difficulties. He firmly believes in supporting students to think critically about the education system and to consider the unheard voices of students who are not reflected in the majority narrative. He often says that he is not interested in having students agree with his views, but rather he wants students to be able to articulate their own perspectives as both teachers and learners.
In October, Georges served on a CELT Panel Discussion, The Foundations of Critical Pedagogy, where he talked about his teaching strategy of asking students to discuss their own cultural experiences in order to share and teach each other.
Congratulations to all the winners!