CLAS teaching excellence honorees use interactive methods to engage students

Monday, May 13, 2019

Jennifer Munroe, Sarah Pollock and Lane Rhodes recently received the 2018-19 Excellence in Teaching Awards presented by the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences (CLAS). The three were lauded for the innovative ways they challenge and engage students, including through research opportunities, interactive lectures and real-time projects.

Munroe, a professor of English, was presented the Integration of Undergraduate Teaching and Research Award. Pollock, a lecturer in the Department of Sociology, was given the Award for Outstanding Teaching by a Full-Time Lecturer. Rhodes, an adjunct faculty member in the Department of English, was honored with the Award for Outstanding Teaching by a Part-Time Faculty Member.

Since her arrival at UNC Charlotte in 2004, Munroe has built an impressive research record in the areas of Shakespeare studies, early modern literature and eco-criticism, including several monographs and essay collections. She has taught undergraduate and graduate courses on these topics for English, Liberal Studies, the Honors Program and Women’s and Gender Studies. Munroe’s scholarly investment in ecofeminism and ecological literary studies shape her approach to teaching and the content of her courses at all levels.

“I approach what happens in my classroom (and out) not simply as related to my research; my research stems from a curiosity that I have about ecological and literary questions that I aim to help my students find their own way of asking,” Munroe said. “And in so doing, my students literally become active researchers and co-producers of knowledge in their own right.”

Finalists for the Integration of Undergraduate Teaching and Research Award were Kirill Afonin, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry, and Didier Dréau, an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences.

Pollock joined the faculty as a full-time lecturer in the Department of Sociology in fall 2015. She teaches courses that address gender, human sexuality and quantitative analysis. Pollock said she thinks “teaching is more than helping students learn the material; it’s about developing their critical thinking skills, broadening their perspectives and challenging them to grow intellectually, morally and socially.”

Stephanie Moller, chair of the Sociology Department, stated, “Dr. Pollock is in her fourth year on the UNC Charlotte faculty, and she has already left a lasting mark on the department and student culture. She is clearly committed to helping our students become thoughtful and critical sociologists. Dr. Pollock is dedicated to finding innovative strategies to reach her students and keep them engaged, and she is willing to reflect on those strategies to assess what does and does not work.”

Pollock uses innovative and effective strategies in the classroom that keep her students engaged. As one example, Pollock revised one of her courses to further develop students’ reading comprehension skills, moving away from reading notes to journal assignments. The new approach enables students to come to class better prepared. They can focus on the main arguments of the readings, and can cultivate their ability to synthesize and apply what they are learning. Class discussions are more nuanced and productive, and students’ depth of understanding has improved, as shown by essay questions.

Finalists for the Award for Outstanding Teaching by a Full-Time Lecturer were Tuan Cao, Department of Biological Sciences, and Paloma Fernandez Sanchez from the Department of Languages and Cultural Studies.

Rhodes has worked as an adjunct lecturer in the Department of English since spring 2016. She teaches the Introduction to Technical Communication course most frequently, and she also teaches a liberal studies course with the theme of literature and culture and an American Studies Program course that focuses on protest music throughout American history. Rhodes earned her master’s degree in English from UNC Charlotte and her bachelor’s degree in piano performance from UNC Chapel Hill.

She spent close to 25 years working in development and communications in a variety of professional environments and draws on this background to help students grasp how class assignments relate to real-life work situations.

“I want students to be confident that what we work on in class matters, is relevant, and will increase their awareness and success beyond the university experience,” she said.

Rhodes has worked in collaboration with other UNC Charlotte units, such as J. Murrey Atkins Library, to facilitate a professional video conference session to bring experts from different industries into the classroom. Working with the University’s Recycling Office, her students created education posters, brochures, surveys and presentation materials related to a real-time recycling project.

“Students know the first day of any semester that my classroom constitutes a community of mutual respect (and that) we will all support each other’s success,” Rhodes said. “I am there to guide and facilitate student-centered learning; that model requires that all participants be responsible for learning.”

Andrew Goff, Biological Sciences, was a finalist for the Outstanding Teaching by a Part-time Faculty Member Award.

Daniela Cunico Dal Pra, a lecturer in Italian in the Department of Languages and Culture Studies, was recognized as a Teaching Professor. The title “Teaching Professor” is awarded to an outstanding lecturer or senior lecturer in recognition of extraordinary accomplishments in teaching and fundamental contributions to the University’s educational mission.

Read the entire story on CLAS Exchange.

Photo: Jennifer Munroe, Lane Rhodes and Sarah Pollock, left to right, with Nancy Gutierrez, dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.

Words: Mary Ellen Frizzell and Banita Brown | Images: Lynn Roberson