NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Perhaps this year more than any other has demonstrated the value of teachers. From adapting learning environments due to COVID-19 to going the extra mile to ensure their students remain engaged and learning, teachers continue to make a difference. Stephen F. Austin State University recently recognized seven of its faculty members with 2020 Teaching Excellence Awards for their dedication to their students and profession.
The Teaching Excellence Awards were established in 1994 to honor outstanding classroom teachers at SFA. Each of the university's six colleges selects a faculty member to receive the annual award based on knowledge of subject matter, quality of lectures and assignments, enthusiasm for teaching, interest in and availability to students, commitment to continuous improvement, and contribution to the quality of teaching at SFA by assisting and encouraging other faculty members. An adjunct faculty member also is recognized. The 2020 recipients are as follows:
Rusche College of Business
Marie Kelly is a lecturer in the Schlief School of Accountancy. She is a CPA and also holds certification as a chartered global management accountant.
“I feel humbled and honored to receive this award. I give credit to my colleagues, my department chair and our dean of the Rusche College of Business for allowing me to pursue experiential learning projects with my students,” Kelly said. “These projects bring real-life scenarios into the classroom, and without their support, implementing these teaching strategies would not be possible.”
Kelly taught as a lecturer in the accounting department from 1987-91 and then as an adjunct faculty member before returning to the department full time in 2011. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business from SFA, and her primary research areas include learning techniques among undergraduate accounting students, where she has developed simulations and experiential learning projects.
Kelly is active in the American Institute of CPAs, Texas Society of CPAs and the East Texas Chapter of CPAs. She has received numerous teaching excellence awards, including TSCPA’s Outstanding Accounting Educator Award.
College of Liberal and Applied Arts
Dr. Andrew Lannen is an associate professor of history and joined the SFA faculty in 2005 after serving as a visiting assistant professor at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan.
“There is no other professional award that I would rather receive than one that reflects the care and attention I have for my students,” Lannen said. “I think my students over the years have really gained deeper insight into the past through the simulations and role-playing scenarios I have built into my upper-level courses.”
Lannen, who serves as the 2020-21 SFA Faculty Senate chair, has primary research interests in colonial and revolutionary American politics and society, slavery, piracy, and military history. He received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of South Florida, a Master of Arts from the University of Florida and doctoral degree from Louisiana State University.
James I. Perkins College of Education
Dr. Jim Ewing, associate professor of education studies, joined the Department of Education Studies in 2015. His research and service focus on teaching mathematics to emergent bilingual learners.
“No award could mean more to me than one for excellence in teaching,” Ewing said. “I strive to be an innovative teacher who offers transformative experiences for my students. I want to model how they can become excellent teachers, which includes having empathy for their students. For example, instead of telling future teachers how emergent bilinguals may feel learning math in a second language, I teach them a math lesson in Spanish. It is an honor to be recognized by SFA for my teaching.”
Ewing has published eight articles and a book titled “Math for ELLs: As Easy as Uno, Dos, Tres.” His 25 years as an elementary teacher and eight years as an administrator have prepared him to be an innovative instructor at SFA. Ewing partners with schools and provides professional development around the country. In 2019, he received an award for his involvement in the community from the Texas chapter of the National Association of Multicultural Education. Ewing received his doctoral degree from Syracuse University.
College of Fine Arts
Amanda Breitbach is a photographer and artist whose research primarily focuses on the relationships between people and land and the intersections between art and science. She joined SFA’s School of Art faculty in 2017 and teaches all levels of photography.
“I am really honored to receive this award, particularly because I know that so many of my colleagues here at SFA are amazing, passionate educators,” Breitbach said. “I believe the committee chose me because they recognize the energy and excitement I bring to my teaching. I have been fortunate to find an excellent home here in the School of Art, with a strong program in photography, motivated students and inspiring colleagues.”
Breitbach grew up on a family farm and ranch in eastern Montana. She graduated summa cum laude from Montana State University with bachelor’s degrees in photography and French before serving as a volunteer with the United States Peace Corps in West Africa.
She has worked as a newspaper photographer/reporter and as a freelance writer before receiving a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2016. Her photographs have been exhibited throughout the United States and internationally.
Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture
Dr. Yanli Zhang joined SFA’s Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture faculty in January 2009. He earned a bachelor’s degree in forestry engineering from Beijing Forestry University and a doctoral degree in forestry from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
“I am extremely honored to receive the Teaching Excellence Award, and I am earnestly grateful for the guidance, support and help I have received from my great colleagues and our dean of the Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture,” Zhang said. “Only within this warmest academic family could I reach this stage, and I am very humbled.”
Zhang completed postdoctoral work and served as a visiting assistant professor at the University of Northern Iowa. He teaches geospatial science and land survey courses. Additionally, he actively mentors undergraduate research and serves as a research advisor to graduate students in forestry and environmental science who are specializing in geospatial science.
Zhang’s research interests include geospatial analysis, geographic information systems application in natural resources management, drone application, and 3D modeling and printing.
College of Sciences and Mathematics
Dr. Jane H. Long is an associate professor of mathematics who employs inquiry-based learning and a focus on problem-solving in classes ranging from introductory courses for pre-service teachers to the mathematics major senior seminar. She sits on the board of directors for Mathematics Learning by Inquiry, is the founding director of SFA’s East Texas Math Teachers’ Circle and is a leader in the national math circles community.
“Cultivating effective practices of mind through mathematical problem-solving is my primary emphasis in teaching,” Long said. “Leadership opportunities connected to teaching endeavors at SFA and the national level have given me the chance to broaden conversations surrounding teaching practices, and I am grateful to be recognized by my colleagues for the impact I have had.”
Furthering her commitment to student research, Long will spend spring 2022 on development leave exploring new areas of her research in mathematics. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Bryn Mawr College and a doctoral degree in mathematics from the University of Maryland. She has been at SFA since 2008.
Erica Dillard is a lecturer in SFA’s Department of Education Studies. She received both her Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies and Master of Education from SFA. Additionally, she studied teaching, learning and culture at Texas A&M University.
“I am humbled to be recognized within such an amazing group of colleagues,” Dillard said. “I believe my individualized and personalized attention to student needs was what made me stand out among a group of very deserving nominees. Both student evaluations and letters of support from my teacher candidates evidenced the extra efforts taken to ensure the learning success of all the teacher candidates with whom I work.”
Dillard teaches courses in early childhood education and serves as coordinator of the Janice A. Pattillo Early Childhood Research Center’s Resource Room. She has twice been recognized as a Faculty Senate Teaching Excellence Award recipient.