2010 teaching awards

Johnson Teaching Award-winner Laura Edwards speaks with student Sanette Tanaka, right, and Lucy Li after class.

For the final project in a class on literature of the Spanish Golden Age, Professor Margaret Greer asked her students to use a Google map to track the movement of the two presumed authors of the first "Don Juan" drama.

Among other tasks, the students tracked the movements of the two authors in a biographical dictionary and traced where the two versions of the play had been performed in Spain and in Peru. In the process, they learned about the Spanish theater in the seventeenth century and geography as well as collaboration and research skills. "While students may forget papers by the next semester, they never forget how much they learn when they are having fun and being interactive," says Greer.

Getting her students to think innovatively about their subjects is one of the hallmarks of Greer's teaching style. Greer, along with Duke faculty colleagues James Bonk, Laura Edwards, Mark Anthony Neal and Carlo Tomasi, were recognized at the annual Trinity College of Arts & Sciences Teaching Awards Dinner Tuesday night. Chemistry professor James Bonk received the Dean's Distinguished Service Award in recognition of 50 years of extraordinary teaching at Duke. (See Bonk video below.)

Two of the award winners, Greer and Tomasi, are collaborating on a project using new technology to study Golden Age theatrical manuscripts in Spain, a project that both use in their courses.

The recipients of the awards are chosen based on recommendations from students and faculty colleagues. Below, each of them shares what they love about teaching and how they help students develop critical thinking skills that they can use throughout their lives.



Howard D. Johnson Award
Laura Edwards, Professor and Associate chair in the Department of History

In academia, when we talk about communicating ideas to a larger audience, we usually think in terms of our publications which usually don't reach as many people as we do by teaching.

In the classroom, we can translate our ideas, communicate them to students and change the way they think about themselves and the world. Watching students get excited about ideas, and what those ideas mean for how they can impact the world, is a gift we are given when we teach.

Teaching also provides engagement with students that allows me learn from them. Students bring up ideas and perspectives I have never thought about. I am constantly being challenged by people around me and having interesting conversations about our work and ideas. This is extremely useful in how I approach my scholarship.

Extra: Synopsis for HISTORY 169A.01, Edwards' course on Women, Gender and Sexuality in the US.




Margaret Greer meets with Elana Berger at the von der Heyden Pavilion.  

Photo by Megan Morr

Richard K. Lublin Award
Margaret Greer, Professor of Spanish & Latin American Studies and Theater Studies in the Department of Romance Studies

I love interacting with bright minds and sharing with them the literary works that I love and the history that I think is important. And I also love getting new ideas from my students. I have my ideas about certain literary works and historical periods, but four eyes or eight or 10 or 20 can see more than two eyes can. We can get closed into our own little boxes of ways of thinking. By talking to students and discussing significant questions with them, we always produce more than we do by ourselves.

I want to make students think in ways that they might not otherwise. Helping them learn to think more broadly about people and the world and where to look for information beyond what they already know is one of the most rewarding things about teaching.

Extra: Manos Teatrales, a joint project by Greer and Tomasi evaluating Golden Age Spanish theatrical manuscripts collections throughout Europe and the Americas.




Professor Mark Anthony Neal teaches a class in White Lecture Hall. Photo by Les Todd.  

Photo by Megan Morr

Robert B. Cox Award
Mark Anthony Neal, Professor of Black Popular Culture in the Department of African and African American Studies

I'm a product of the Web 2.0 world. I bring that element to the classroom: using Facebook and the blogosphere reflect how my teaching strategies have changed over the last 20 years. The Web 2.0 and digital culture has changed the way young folks process information and I have changed to meet that.

So much of my work revolves around popular culture and vernacular culture that the classroom space is really a learning space, not only for my students but for myself. Teaching allows me to keep a fresh perspective on popular culture, particularly the way my students are consuming it. I can bring the immediacy of their relationship with popular culture to a conversation with the more theoretical and historical work that I do.

I really like the connection to students. As scholars, sometimes we live in very theoretical worlds; our work doesn't always immediately impact on people's lives. In teaching, the classroom becomes a laboratory space to get feedback and connection on the intellectual level. I think of the classroom as a space of exchange; we're in equal positions to share our opinions. The best teacher, regardless of teaching style or subject matter, makes learning and information sexy.

Extra: Mark Anthony Neal's blog: NewBlackMan




Professor Carlo Tomasi meets with Susanna Ricco and Rolando Estrada, both graduate students in computer science..  

Photo by Megan Morr

David and Janet Vaughan Brooks Award
Carlo Tomasi, Professor, Department of Computer Science

I like the transformation that I see in my students from the beginning of the course to the end. They come in not knowing what it means to state and solve a problem formally and they leave understanding how to go from a problem that is big to a solution that is clear and precise.

Even though some of my students do not continue in the subject matter I teach, I like knowing they use the skills I teach in whatever they do.

In any position of any responsibility, the issue is always to take some set of issues that need to be addressed, solve it and offer solutions. Even if the solution is not mathematical, my students learn an ability to extract what is important about a problem and the tools that can be brought to bear on it. I enjoy helping my students succeed, not just in class, but in life.

Extra: Courses and Lectures by Carlo Tomasi

Great Teaching Across the Schools

Trinity College isn't the only school recognizing great teaching this semester. Some schools will announce teaching awards at commencement. Below is a list of faculty and students already honored:

Graduate School

The Graduate School's Dean's Award for Excellence in Mentoring recognizes the efforts and accomplishments of faculty and students who consistently serve as effective mentors. This year, the award went to the following:

David Brady, Associate Professor of Sociology

Elizabeth A. Clark, John Carlisle Kilgo Professor of Religion and Professor of History

Scott Huettel, Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

Mohamed Noor, Professor and Associate Chair of Biology

Student Awards 

William Geoffrey Gardner, Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science

Jayme M. Johnson, University Program in Genetics and Genomics

Laurie Stevison, Biology

In addition, Patrick Gallagher of the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience and Karen Gonzalez Rice of the Department of Art, Art History & Visual Studies received the Dean's Award for Excellence in Teaching, designed to recognize outstanding teaching by graduate students

Pratt School of Engineering

Civil and environmental engineering Associate Professor of the Practice Joseph Nadeau received the Klein Family Distinguished Teaching Award.

Biomedical engineering Professor Kam Leong received the Stansell Family Distinguished Research Award.

Professor of the Practice Robert Malkin, also of BME, received the Lois and John L. Imhoff Distinguished Teaching Award.

Professor David Katz of BME received the Capers and Marion McDonald Award for Excellence in Teaching and Research

Electrical and computer engineering professor Krishnendu Chakrabarty received the Capers and Marion McDonald Award for Excellence in Mentoring and Advising.

School of Law

Professor Barak D. Richman received the 2010 Distinguished Teaching Award from the Duke Bar Association.