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Top teachers of 2021

Posted 8:12 a.m. Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Six faculty have received a 2021 Eagle Teaching Excellence Award

UWL recognizes outstanding educators

During the 2020-21 academic year, UWL faculty were challenged like never before. From developing online courses to supporting students to dealing with the emotional weight of the pandemic, instructors in every department rose to the occasion. This year, UWL’s Provost Office received hundreds of nominations from students hoping to recognize their favorite instructors.

From these nominations, a university committee selected six faculty to receive 2021 Eagle Teaching Excellence Awards. The winners will be highlighted on UWL’s homepage in the coming weeks, along with being honored during Chancellor Joe Gow’s opening remarks for the fall semester.

They are:

  • Merideth Garcia, English/English Education
  • Lisa Giddings, Economics
  • Brian Kumm-Schaley, Recreation Management & Therapeutic Recreation
  • Amy Nicodemus, Archaeology & Anthropology
  • Anthony Chergosky, Political Science & Public Administration
  • Kathryn (Kat) Skemp Moran, Theatre Arts

If you missed any of the stories in this series, they have been collected here.

Merideth Garcia, English/English Education

Merideth Garcia is an assistant professor English and English education.

Started at UWL: 2018

Courses: I'm an SOE-affiliate in the English Department, and I teach literature, composition, linguistics and English teaching methods courses. I also supervise teacher candidates in their middle and high school internship placements.

Background: I completed my PhD at the University of Michigan in 2018, where I was a Graduate Student Instructor, teaching first-year writing, upper-division critical theory and writing courses, and both undergraduate- and graduate-level English teaching methods courses. Before that, I spent 10 years teaching English and English to Speakers of other Languages in K-12 classrooms — everything from second grade ESOL to dual-credit high school courses. I spent one year teaching in India and one year teaching at a community college.

Favorite part of teaching: I am most excited when students discover that they enjoy reading, that they write beautifully, that they think critically or that they love teaching. I love learning new things, and so I try to structure my classes to maximize opportunities for all of us to learn from each other. Having taught so many different grade levels and topics, I have a special appreciation for how learning across the lifespan develops and how learners at every stage can contribute to our community and common resources. At UWL, it's been especially satisfying to see my students become teachers who foster curiosity and critical engagement. I'm honored to receive this award and grateful for the colleagues and students who make my work possible.

Lisa Giddings, Economics

Lisa Giddings is an associate professor of economics.

Started at UWL: 2000

Courses: I regularly teach introductory microeconomics ECO110 and intermediate microeconomic theory ECO308, but have taught ECO336 Women in the U.S. Economy. In the fall of 2021, I will be teaching ECO333 Behavioral Economics. I hope to teach our course on the economics of sports as my recent research has focused on women in baseball (Think the movie “League of Their Own”) and women in hockey (Did you know there is a professional women's hockey league with five teams in America and Canada?).

Background: Prior to coming to UWL, I was an adjunct professor at Trinity College in Washington, D.C., and finishing up my studies at American University. Trinity College is an all-women’s college that serves mainly African American students. This was an amazing experience for me, serving a population comprised mainly of women of color. The school was small, so there were only two of us in the economics department, and we would each teach three different courses every semester to only 10 or 12 students in the classroom. The environment allowed me to learn so much about the experiences of people in minority groups and appreciate struggles students from underrepresented groups have in college. It also helped me develop a more interactive way of teaching and broadened my course repertoire.

Favorite part of teaching: I have two favorite parts of teaching. The first is creating authentic and lasting relationships with students. I really missed that in the online environment during COVID-19 and tried to improve the situation by holding synchronous classes on Collaborate Ultra. My students and I recreated that in-person connection that normally occurs at UWL by becoming “room raters” on our backgrounds, and by creatively relying on the chat function and doing experiments together. For example, choose a number between 0 and 100. The winner is the person who chooses the number that is closest to the average of all the submissions multiplied by 0.67. The winner gets a chocolate sent to their house, but it was a pale comparison to the real thing. My second passion is creating engaging pedagogy and cooperative learning experiences that spark student motivation and interest in economics. I have become particularly interested in learning about why women and other underrepresented groups shy away from economics and how to combine a safe and welcoming classroom environment with pedagogical strategies that can rectify this in our discipline.

Brian Kumm-Schaley, Recreation Management & Therapeutic Recreation

Brian Kumm-Schaley, is an assistant professor of recreation management and therapeutic recreation.

Started at UWL: 2016

Courses: My professional background is in community-based recreation and leisure services, and my teaching generally aligns with this emphasis area in the Recreation Management Program. Courses that detail concerns related to legal liability and risk management (REC 402/502), historical and philosophical antecedents for public and non-profit recreation services (REC 215), human development and group dynamics (REC 735), recreation programming (REC 301), as well as professional and internship preparation are some of my main topic areas. I also serve as the program’s internship coordinator and supervise interns in diverse field experiences.

Background: Prior to joining faculty at UWL, I taught as an adjunct professor in the Department of Counseling and Human Development Services at the University of Georgia, where I completed my Ph.D. (Go Dawgs!) I also collaborated with faculty at Young Harris College in North Georgia, co-designing and guest lecturing in multiple upper-level electives for the Outdoor Leadership Department. Finally, I seized any opportunity to guest lecture in doctoral courses related to research methodologies and contemporary theory at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. 

Favorite part of teaching: My favorite part of teaching is the connections I get to make with students. It may sound selfish, but the creative and open disposition and energy of students in the classroom and/or field is invigorating. To be a small part of their education and learning processes, where students’ worldviews, skills, knowledge and abilities are broadened or expanded — this is the closest definition of joy I can imagine. My interactions with students often help me expand and broaden my own perspectives and understandings, which is a genuine gift teaching affords me at UWL.  

Amy Nicodemus, Archaeology & Anthropology

Amy Nicodemus is an assistant professor of archaeology and antrhopology.

Started at UWL: 2016

Courses:  I specialize in European prehistory and osteology (human osteology and zooarchaeology).  I teach classes on these topics, along with Intro to the Archaeology Major, Intro to Physical Anthropology, World Archaeology, Archaeological Theory and Senior/Honors Thesis.

Background: Prior to joining UWL, I held a postdoctoral research fellowship in Archaeology at the University of Michigan.

Favorite part of teaching: I am fortunate to teach many laboratory classes and internships. I love being able to work directly with students through hands-on lab activities and research projects. These help to get students excited about, and more engaged with, the material and to learn practical skills along the way. It is especially rewarding when students transform these foundational experiences into theses their senior year.

Anthony Chergosky, Political Science & Public Administration

Anthony Chergosky is an assistant professor of political science and public administration.

Started at UWL: 2018

Courses: I primarily teach courses on American government and politics, including introductory courses and upper-level courses. I absolutely love teaching POL 101: American National Government, which provides a broad overview of government, politics and public policy in the United States. Some of the upper-level courses I teach include Campaigns and Elections, Politics and the Media, Legislative Process and the American Presidency. In addition, I teach research methods for political science and public administration students. Finally, I have enjoyed teaching a first-year seminar on the topics of persuasion, influence and power.

Background: I arrived at UWL after receiving a PhD in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. My graduate work focused on American political institutions, and I conducted research on Congress, the media, elections, and the scholarship of teaching and learning. Most importantly, I was able to gain teaching experience at UNC and discovered how much I valued the opportunity to work with students. During my graduate studies at UNC, I developed a love for teaching as well as a curiosity for how to promote student learning.

Favorite part of teaching: I love the fact that each day is different, and each class is different. When I teach my introductory-level American government courses, I get to focus on developing students’ interest in politics and their passion for democracy. When I teach upper-level courses, I enjoy showing students how political scientists think and guiding students as they develop new ways of thinking. Perhaps best of all, I get to directly witness the bright future for American democracy. I’ve found students in my classes to be independent thinkers who are clear-eyed about the challenges facing the nation and are motivated to address these challenges. In my experience, today’s students overwhelmingly think politics should be about much more than petty partisanship, social media negativity and cable news shouting matches. I see firsthand that our students, regardless of ideology or party, possess a keen understanding of how to make democracy work, and this gives me tremendous optimism about the future of the nation.

Kathryn (Kat) Skemp Moran, Theatre Arts

Kathryn Skemp Moran is an associate lecturer of theatre arts.

Started at UWL: 2011

Courses: I teach private musical theater voice lessons, singer/actor courses and music direct the musical theater productions.

Background: Prior to UWL, I performed opera and musical theater around the United States and taught voice at St. Vincent’s University and Point Park University in Pittsburgh. UWL has also afforded me opportunities to continue some professional operatic performance work.

Favorite part of teaching: I have the unique opportunity to work with students individually from the time they are freshmen until they are seniors. I enjoy watching these students grow into confident adults and realize their potential. It is a joy to be able to help them find their voices and challenge them to go a little bit further than they thought was possible. Breakthroughs in the studio are so exciting, and developing a skill like singing requires patience and hard work — lessons that students can carry over into other areas of their education and personal lives. Seeing them “get it” and start applying concepts in real time is so gratifying. 

I know that I have grown as an instructor because my students challenge me. I learn from them every day. Thank you, students, for recognizing me for this award. It is truly humbling. 


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