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NMSU Teaching Academy Gala celebrates members, donors

Release Date: 06 May 2021
NMSU Teaching Academy Gala celebrates members, donors

The New Mexico State University Teaching Academy celebrated its dedicated members and generous supporters during the annual 18th annual Teaching Academy Gala May 5.

The virtual gala brought together about 80 faculty and staff members, graduate students and donors who are part of the Teaching Academy, a member-driven, donor-supported training center at NMSU that provides professional development in teaching, scholarly writing, diversity, leadership, mentoring, and promotion and tenure.

The gala featured an awards ceremony that honored a group of the Teaching Academy’s most distinguished members. NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu, President John Floros and Provost Carol Parker delivered remarks during the event and praised the Teaching Academy for reaching a membership milestone over the past year.

“This year, we have 478 members who participated in 10 or more hours of professional development training. This is 100 more members than our previous record,” said Tara Gray, director of the Teaching Academy.

In total, 1,134 faculty, staff and graduate students participated in 13,403 hours of learning events sponsored by the Teaching Academy and NMSU Digital Learning over the past year, Gray said. 

“We had a busy year because faculty were switching to teaching online,” she said. “Heroically, when COVID-19 struck, many faculty members switched from teaching face-to-face to teaching online within two weeks. Even more remarkably, they sought additional professional development during this difficult time.

The awards presentation included 90 recipients recognized as distinguished members who participated in more than 40 hours of training and development. Topping the list were four recipients who participated in the most hours, including:

Suparna Chatterjee, a Ph.D. candidate in Curriculum and Instruction, teaches an undergraduate and a graduate course online. Her teaching interests include science, online education and culturally responsive pedagogies for diverse classrooms, and she develops curricula for after-school programs and conducts professional development for K-12 teachers.

Cynthia Wise, a Ph.D. candidate in the Educational Leadership and Administration program, helps teach courses in the Borderlands and Ethnic Studies program. Wise serves on the statewide New Mexico Ethnic Studies Council, the Southern New Mexico Equity Forum and Transform Education New Mexico. Her primary research interest is in diversity, equity and inclusion.

Ahmed Elaksher, associate professor in the Department of Engineering Technology and Surveying Engineering, is the program coordinator for the geomatics program at NMSU. Elaksher has more than 20 years of experience in both academia and industry. In 2018, he led the transition of geomatics into a distance education program.

Marija Dimitrijevic, college associate professor in the Department of Criminal Justice, has been a distinguished member of the Teaching Academy for several years. Dimitrijevic, a quality matters-certified peer reviewer for online courses, is responsible for evaluating the quality of online and blended higher education courses. She also served on the College of Arts and Sciences online task force and helped faculty transition their face-to-face courses online. 

The final awards recognized three faculty members for outstanding achievements in mentorship, distance education and teaching innovation. These recipients included:

April Ulery, professor in the Plant and Environmental Sciences, received the Outstanding Mentor Award. Ulery teaches and conducts research on environmental soil chemistry and develops teaching animations that illustrate soil science concepts. She also is the president of the 6,000-member Soil Science Society of America. She has been active in the Teaching Academy since it transitioned from the Center for Educational Development in 2003.

Rick Marlatt, interim division director for teacher education and co-director of the School of Teacher Preparation, Administration and Leadership, received the Leading the Way Award for his leadership in distance education. Marlatt’s work bridges teacher education, creative writing, digital literacies, literature study and sociocultural theory.

Ivette Guzmán, assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, received the Truly Innovative Teaching Award. Guzmán teaches plant science courses and researches medicinal New Mexican crops. She received the award for her innovative use of NMSU’s Technology-Enhanced Active Learning classroom and her “flipped-class” approach, which helps students become more motivated and engaged in learning. 

Before the awards presentation, Gray and many of the speakers paid tribute to the late Herb Zuhl and his late wife, Joan, who were generous supporters of the Teaching Academy and NMSU. The Zuhls left a bequest to the academy, Gray said. Parker also received a trophy and recognition for becoming a Teaching Academy benefactor, the highest donor level.

The day before the virtual gala, the Teaching Academy hosted an outdoor, COVID-safe event on campus during which members received membership certificates and chocolate truffles, and were treated to a live performance from the Footprints, a brass quartet led by NMSU’s world-class trumpeter, Pancho Romero.

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