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The Excellence program is an opportunity to recognize individuals for their contributions to the university through teaching, scholarship, and service. 

The selection of Teaching Excellence Award recipients is based upon knowledge of subject matter; quality of lectures and assignments; enthusiasm for teaching; interest in and availability to students; sensitivity to the learning environment; effectiveness as a teacher as assessed through student, peer and alumni evaluations; commitment to continuous improvement of their own classroom teaching; and contributions to the quality of teaching within the university through assistance and encouragement of other faculty. The Teaching Excellence program has been rewarding teaching excellence at SFA since the program's inception in 1994.

Each college of the university selects its excellence award recipients, who are recognized annually at the Faculty Awards Ceremony.

​2024 Teaching Excellence Award Recipients 

Nelson Rusche College of Business

Dr. Gina Harden
Dr. Gina Harden

Dr. Gina Harden is an associate professor of management and marketing who joined SFA in 2013.

“This is the highest honor to me, as working with the students is my favorite part of being a faculty member,” she said. “I love getting to meet a new group of young adults each semester and see how the future will be shaped by them.”

Harden, who earned her bachelor’s degree in management at SFA, said, “teaching at SFA is a dream job for me. I spent four of the best years of my life here as a student, and being back here all these years later as a faculty member is a big honor in and of itself.”

Two of her former students are members of the Rusche Alumni Business Advisory Council, and two are national board members for the Society for Advancement of Management. Harden serves as faculty advisor for SFA’s SAM chapter and was named Outstanding Faculty Advisor at the national level in 2023.

“I am truly blessed to have former students who still call, text, email, visit and even invite me to their weddings,” Harden said. “We discuss our personal lives as well as promotional opportunities in their profession and their giving back to their school, their profession and society.”

Harden said she is thankful to be at SFA for many reasons.

“It has enriched my life in so many ways from all the opportunities to develop the relationships I have with so many outstanding students,” she said.m,” she said. “They are why I do what I do — to help them discover their strengths, their career paths and generally their place in the world.”

James I. Perkins College of Education 

Dr. Amber Wagnon
Dr. Amber Wagnon

Dr. Amber Wagnon is an associate professor of education studies who joined SFA in 2012.

“As a teacher-educator, being honored for my own teaching is one of the most rewarding moments,” Wagnon said. “I strive to model innovative, effective teaching practices in each of my classes, online or face-to-face, and am able to do so in large part because of the support I receive from my colleagues and the leaders in the Perkins College of Education and across SFA.”

Before beginning her career in higher education, Wagnon taught high school English/language arts, history and theatre arts.

“The opportunity to join an institution of higher education as a teacher-educator was one I sought because I deeply value public education in our state and nation,” she said. “As a teacher-educator, I have the opportunity to work with future K-12 classroom educators who will impact thousands of Texas children each year. I cannot imagine a more rewarding career.”

Wagnon earned her bachelor’s degree in history and her master’s degree in secondary education and educational leadership from SFA, as well as a doctoral degree in instruction and curriculum from Texas Tech University. She said returning to her alma mater to teach has given her more time to learn from her college mentors, including Drs. Mark Barringer and Randi Barnes-Cox, associate professors of history, and Dr. Michael Martin, professor of English and creative writing.

“But the very best thing about teaching at SFA are the students I have the opportunity to work with each day,” Wagnon said.

She likes them so much she tries to hire them whenever possible.

“Dr. Martin and I recently received a grant from the National Council of Teachers of English, enabling us to hire several SFA graduates to serve as mentors for those seeking their English-language arts certification,” she said. 

Micky Elliott College of Fine Arts 

Shaun Roberts
Shaun Roberts

Shaun Roberts is an associate professor of art who earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting from SFA in 2010 and returned to SFA as a faculty member in 2013.

“The Teaching Excellence Award holds immense value for me,” Roberts said. “It is an honor to be nominated for this award by my colleagues, whom I hold in high regard.”

After earning his bachelor’s degree from SFA, Roberts earned his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Washington and was awarded the Joan Mitchel Foundation Grant for graduating MFA students.

He has exhibited in several group and solo exhibitions in more than 20 states. Recently, he was awarded a residency to work alongside painter Odd Nerdrum in Norway for over two months.

Roberts’ passion for teaching stems from his desire to share his knowledge and experience in his field and pay forward the guidance he received from his mentors.

“Witnessing the growth, development and maturation of my students during their time at SFA brings me great satisfaction,” he said. “This semester, one of my students was awarded the prestigious Ed and Gwen Cole Memorial Dean’s Circle award, and it is humbling to think that I played a small part in their success.”

Roberts said he returned to SFA to teach because SFA provides an ideal environment for students’ growth by offering ample resources while maintaining a sense of community.

“The students develop a sense of fellowship with each other and enjoy great working relationships with their mentors and professors,” he said. “Being a part of the faculty at SFA is a true honor, and I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the students’ growth.” 

Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture 

Dr. Pat Stephens-Williams
Dr. Pat Stephens-Williams

Dr. Pat Stephens-Williams is the Lacy H. Hunt Distinguished Professor of human dimensions of natural resources and forest recreation in the Department of Forestry.

She has blended the knowledge she developed from her doctoral and master’s degrees in English, master’s degree in forestry, and bachelor’s degree in English and journalism to teach courses at SFA including "Human Dimensions in Natural Resources" and “Communications in Natural Resources.”

“Because the stakes are so high in our field of study, it is extremely important that foresters are also excellent communicators,” Stephens-Williams said. “On any given day they may be out in the field writing a plan with a landowner, teaching scouts how to identify indicator species for healthy forests, or in a congressional hearing as a witness or advisor.”

Many of her courses feature service learning and civic engagement projects, including research and problem-solving for the National Park Service, United States Forest Service, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

“The impact of these experiences are often life-changing shifts in thinking and career directions,” said Stephens-Williams, a fellow with the Society of American Foresters. “Their involvement means they are already seeing and solving issues for our clients, and envisioning themselves in their future careers. And, of course, seeing a bison or grizzly in the wild never hurts for student impact.”

Stephens-Williams said she is honored and humbled to be recognized for excelling in a job and field of study that she enjoys so much and that depends on the help and cooperation of so many others.

“I must give credit to all of the students who have inspired me to always want to find ways to inspire them,” she said. “They are why I do what I do — to help them discover their strengths, their career paths and generally their place in the world.”

College of Liberal and Applied Arts 

Dr. Cassandra Hayes
Dr. Cassandra Hayes

Dr. Cassandra Hayes is an assistant professor of broadcast journalism who joined SFA in 2022.

“This award is such a huge honor,” Hayes said. “The award feels all the more humbling given that I was nominated and given letters of support by my peers, all of whom are amazing educators I learn from every day.”

As a child of two K-12 educators, Hayes didn’t think she would be a teacher. She especially didn’t like the public speaking portion of the job.

“However, once I got in the classroom, I found a real passion in forming relationships with students and helping them grow into creative and confident professionals,” she said. “Higher education offers wonderful opportunities to have freedom in my intellectual pursuits as well as offering a great sense of meaning in my work, since I'm working with really excited students right at the beginning of their careers.”

Hayes said SFA students “are the best thing about teaching at SFA.”

“They have great senses of imagination yet humility and deep concern for helping people,” she said. “They're also willing to roll with experiential learning activities and techniques, which are prioritized by SFA’s Department of Mass Communication.”

Hayes tries to stay in touch with former students as much as possible, mostly via social media.

“Part of what I love about my job is helping students grow into professionals, so I love seeing their professional work as they grow way beyond any capabilities I could have taught them and start doing super awesome things in the world.”

College of Sciences and Mathematics 

Dr. Angela Jones
Dr. Angela Jones

Dr. Angela Jones is an associate professor responsible for didactic and clinical teaching and learning experiences in the DeWitt School of Nursing, which she joined as a faculty member in 2015.

“I am absolutely honored to receive the Teaching Excellence Award for the College of Sciences and Mathematics,” Jones said. “It was a complete surprise.”

She ties her past professional experiences to her teaching through courses, including “Nursing Care of Community Populations,” which focuses on collaboration among community members and interdisciplinary health care providers to prevent illness and promote health in community populations. It incorporates the knowledge she gained while conducting COVID-19 testing, vaccination and community outreach in support of fire and rescue and emergency management staff members for the City of Nacogdoches.

“I began teaching nursing many years ago because I wanted to share my knowledge, excitement and love for people with the next generation of nurses,” she said.

Jones, who has been a registered nurse for 28 years, was drawn to SFA because “the DeWitt School of Nursing values caring, excellence, integrity and scholarship, all of which promote high-quality, safe, patient-centered professional nursing practice.”

She also makes sure to stay in touch with former students.

“They are working all over the United States as registered nurses, and many have continued their education as advanced practice nurses,” Jones said. “It is always exciting to hear from them.”

Faculty Senate Representative 

Jamie Derrick
Jamie Derrick

Jamie Derrick is a lecturer of management and human resources management who joined SFA as an HR representative in 2009 and began serving as a faculty member in the Rusche College of Business in 2015.

“This award is a testament to the dedication and passion I bring to the classroom each day, striving to empower students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed,” she said.

After more than 15 years of working as a human resources professional, Derrick was ready to teach what she had learned.

“Working as an HR professional, I can help one organization become great,” she said. “But by educating the next generation of HR and business managers, I have a much broader societal impact and bigger impact on the future of a variety of workplaces.”

Derrick says one of the qualities she cherishes about SFA the most is its vibrant community of students and faculty.

“The supportive environment fostered by SFA enables me to engage with students on a deeper level, facilitating their growth not only academically but also personally and professionally,” she said.

A subject matter expert for the Society for Human Resource Management, Derrick is a firm believer in ongoing professional development to enhance her students’ learning experience.

“I continuously seek opportunities to expand my knowledge and refine my teaching strategies,” she said. “I am grateful for the support of the SFA community and look forward to continuing my journey of teaching excellence.”

Teaching Excellence Award Recipients from Previous Years


















Earlier Years


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