UNCSA Excellence in Teaching award recipients named

AwardIn 1994 the Board of Governors of the multi-campus University of North Carolina established a series of “Excellence in Teaching” awards that reinforced that teaching is the primary responsibility and focus of its 17 constituent institutions. The policy notes that the awards are to “encourage, identify, recognize, reward and support good teaching within the University.” At UNC School of the Arts, recipients are chosen each year from those current, full-time members of the faculty who are nominated to receive an award. One faculty member’s name is then forwarded on to the University of North Carolina Board of Governors to receive a system-wide teaching award. This award-winner receives a stipend of $12,500, a commemorative bronze medallion, and will be honored at our commencement exercises. The Board of Governors will meet in February to select the recipients of the UNC Board of Governors Excellence in Teaching Awards.

The recipients of the UNCSA Excellence in Teaching Awards for 2016-2017 are:

Renata Jackson, School of Filmmaking
Dr. Renata Jackson joined the faculty of the School of Filmmaking in 1998, where she currently serves as Associate Professor of Cinema Studies and Assistant Dean of Academics.
Her goal as a teacher, as articulated in her Philosophy of Teaching Statement, is “for these young artists to come away with an understanding of where their beloved art-form has come from: to understand the cultural, historical, and aesthetic contexts on touchstone works of film-art, as well as to gain the vocabulary they need in order not only to analyze existing films, but also to speak articulately about their own creative film productions.”

Renata’s letters of nomination demonstrate the impact that she has had on her students in the words of an alumnus of the Film School: “Dr. Jackson’s passion towards her teaching showed through her meticulously planned-out lectures and open-mindedness towards what the students have to say. Just like the best philosophers and educators, Dr. Jackson knows and was not afraid to show us that the learning curve never ends and that even someone like her, with the rich experience she had gained, can learn from a young student.”

One of her colleagues adds, “Students find Renata imminently approachable, always eager to help them if they are struggling or to take them beyond the boundaries of the syllabus if they so desire. She is a fountain of knowledge and inspiration for them, and they readily praise the value she brings to their education.”

Dr. Jackson foreshadowed her academic calling when, as a little girl in elementary school, she used to study for tests by pretending to be a teacher, either sitting at her desk or pacing the room and “lecturing” to her imaginary class. She fell in love with the cinema early in her college years, but found that the opportunity to become a teaching assistant for a film history class “lit her fire” even more, changing the trajectory of her career from aspiring filmmaker to aspiring film professor.

Dr. Jackson earned a doctorate in Cinema Studies from New York University, and an master's and bachelor's degree in Film Production and Film History/Criticism from Penn State University. Prior to joining the faculty of the UNCSA, she taught film history, theory, and aesthetics at Penn State, Emerson College, the European Institute for International Communication, and NYU. She has twice before received the campus Excellence in Teaching Award, in 2003 and 2013.

Jill Lane, High School Academic Program
Ms. Jill Lane joined the High School Academic Program Faculty teaching mathematics in 1994, and served as Dean of the High School Academic Program from 2006-2015. She sees her job, both as a teacher and as an administrator, as opening as many career paths as possible to her students. As she states, “Students attending UNCSA should and do receive an academic preparation equivalent to the excellence of their arts preparation.”

Her road to teaching began early, when she began instructing a “classroom” full of stuffed animals on the intricacies of "Charlotte’s Web" while in the 3rd grade. Later, her fascination with mathematics and, in particular, problem solving found a partner in teaching. As she writes, “I vividly remember thinking, ‘Without teachers, everything stops.’ Teachers are fundamental to the translation of cultural knowledge and values, to progress.”

The value of her role, as she sees it, is in helping students to make connections: “As useful a tool as math is, its purpose is lost if it remains solely in the mathematics classroom. My goal is to provide students with problems that real people solve, and, if possible, that real artists solve. Specific facts and methods will be lost to the learner shortly after leaving the math class; ways of looking at the world, hopefully, will not.” This same desire has helped Ms. Lane in her work with her colleagues as well. As one co-worker writes, “Not only does Jill approach me often with new ideas for teaching mathematics, she is also a great resource for helping me develop and think through ideas that I may have for teaching a particular concept. I am a better teacher for having worked with Jill.”

Ms. Lane earned a bachelor's degree in Mathematics from Wake Forest University, a master's in Education in Mathematics from the College of William and Mary, an Educational Specialist Degree in Instructional Technology from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and a Graduate Certificate in Applied Statistics and Data Management and Statistics Education from North Carolina State University. Prior to joining UNCSA, Ms. Lane served on the faculties of Salem College, High Point College, Salem Academy, and North Forsyth High School.

Joseph Mills, Division of Liberal Arts
Currently the Susan Burress Wall Distinguished Professor in the Humanities at the UNCSA, Dr. Joseph Mills teaches humanities and writing courses and has served on the faculty since 1998. He has published six collections of poetry, including the recent Shakespearian themed "Exit, Pursued By a bear". His writing awards include the 2015Roaoke-Chowan for Poetry for This Miraculous Turning.

Numerous colleagues and students weighed in on what they identified as the elements that make Joe such a successful teacher, offering the following thoughts:

“Students carry the critical and creative thinking practices of the course well beyond the classroom, expanding the value through interchanges with others. Their work with Joe helps them love powerful ideas, great writing, and to see that they might find those kinds of ideas and writing in unexpected parts of our culture, so they better keep their eyes open.”

“Dr. Mills leads his classrooms with a gentle, relaxed hand. He will state, very simply, what he intends to teach and why he thinks it is worth teaching. He understands that he cannot force a student to learn. He waits patiently instead, remaining ever ready for that student who shows an interest. And then, when that student does work, he reciprocates.

He will look at their work with care and give his real, considered opinion. When he gives his opinion it’s clear that he actually cared; assessing student’s work is not merely an obligation, but a real chance to communicate with them. And that’s why Dr. Mills isn’t afraid of the messy reality. He doesn’t teach according to any method or process. He looks at every student as an individual and treats him or her with the respect of equals. When you’re in one of Dr. Mills’ classes, you feel like a valued participant.”

Dr. Mills’ process, in which he relies on a careful balance of teaching, coaching, and student autonomy, brings out the best in his students. As he describes it, “I hope that I give my students the material and create an environment to get them fermenting, then I try to get out of the way… I don’t know what they’ll bring in or what they’ll say (and this makes me anxious), but usually I’m struck by their curiosity, intelligence, and creativity when given the space.”

Dr. Mills holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of California-Davis, an master's degree in English from the University of New Mexico, and a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Chicago. In addition to publishing numerous pieces of fiction, non-fiction, and criticism, he has researched and written two editions of "A Guide to North Carolina’s Wineries" and edited a collection of film criticism, "A Century of the Marx Brothers". His teaching was previously recognized with the Excellence in Teaching Award in 2003.

Michael Rothkopf, School of Music
Dr. Michael Rothkopf is a Professor of Music at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where he has served on the faculty since 1991 teaching composition, music technology, and graduate career courses in the School of Music. Dr. Rothkopf has also previously served as Interim Music Dean and as Assistant Dean of Graduate Programs.

Students freely speak of Dr. Rothkopf’s meaningful influence on their work and on themselves as artists: “Dr. Rothkopf is one of the most profoundly thoughtful and supportive teachers I have ever met or seen in my life. It does not take a large investigation to discover how he goes above and beyond for students: he offers up his time and energy freely, without expecting anything back, simply to give help as much as he can.” An alumnus of the school adds, “Dr. Rothkopf is an amazing composer of unique and innovative music, and he is an absolute expert of music technology.” With hundreds of performances of his own compositions in the state and across the country, Michael has been recognized for music that “created a sense of time and occasion that effectively drew the listeners into its sonic world.”

His colleagues also strongly endorse his work, as evidenced through their statement from a recent peer evaluation: “Dr. Rothkopf’s teaching activities, whether in the classroom or the studio, indicate his dedication to this work…His teaching is strong and he is very effective in empowering the student to develop his or her own ideas; in lessons he offers constructive feedback and a wealth of resources.”

Inspired by a week that he spent sharing a stand performing with Charlie Burrell, one of the first African-American musicians to break the color barrier in a major American symphony, Michael realized that “being a great musician, being a great artist is about learning as much as you can about everything and then bringing that knowledge to your art and community with humility.” Dr. Rothkopf earned both a Doctor of Musical Arts and master's degree in Composition from Columbia University and a bachelor's degree in Composition, with a minor in Psychology, from the University of Denver.

Glenn Siebert, School of Music
Mr. Glenn Siebert is an Associate Professor of Music at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where he has served on the faculty since 1991. In his Philosophy of Teaching Statement, Mr. Siebert describes the teacher that he constantly strives to be: “I believe that students are inspired and motivated to learn by teachers who love what they teach and are passionate and positive about their discipline… It is important to guide my students to make creative choices about a career path and encourage them to make informed decisions based on the skills they develop as well as their passions and strengths.”

Singing has been a part of Mr. Siebert’s life from the very beginning, and led him to his position on the UNCSA faculty. As he recalls, “My entire life has been about singing, as a child in church choir, as a teenager in high school musicals, undergraduate and graduate school degrees in music and as a professional. I came to Winston-Salem to sing for Piedmont Opera and fell in love with the NC School of the Arts...With a bit of serendipity, a position in the voice department was available and I got the job. It was the right choice.”

One student praised the uniqueness of the partnership with his professor: “Mr. Siebert has become less of a teacher and more of a life guide to me at this school. He is helping me realize the kind of potential I really have and igniting a passion for the kind of music that makes me happy, never once telling me what to do but rather giving me the proper tools to be able to discover it through my own hard work and commitment. He has not only taught me how to be a better musician, but how to grow as a person. Important virtues like promptness, patience, humility, and a thirst for knowledge are just a few of the many things he has cultivated in me.”

The way that Mr. Siebert lives out his teaching has had a demonstrable impact on many of his students. As one mentions, “Professor Siebert’s lessons are not only found in the classroom, but also in the way that he lives out his own career. In addition to being an outstanding educator, he is a sought-after performer and producer, modeling for his students how to maintain a thriving career as a 21st century musician.” His notable concert performances include appearances with the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony, and the Cleveland Orchestra, among many others. Opera roles with national and international companies have taken him as far afield as Germany, Spain, and Italy.

Mr. Siebert completed his master's and bachelor's degrees in Music at Indiana University. In addition to his work at UNCSA, he is Founder and Director of the noted Magnolia Baroque Ensemble and Festival and Music Director at the historic Home Moravian Church in Old Salem.

Zachary Stevenson, School of Design and Production
Mr. Zachary Stevenson serves as Assistant Professor and Director of the Scenic Technology Program in the School of Design and Production at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where he joined the faculty in 2008.

Mr. Stevenson has taught more than 20 courses over his time in the school. In his Philosophy of Teaching Statement, he describes his current role as a faculty member as “…really just an extension of doing what I enjoy... Each content area challenges me to engage the students with the relevancy; to not just comprehend the lesson but to engage with it, find application for it, and incorporate it into their personal skills toolkit.” He brings an incredible breadth of relevant information into the classroom, and strives to push the boundaries with his students. As he reflects, “If these students are going to have an impact on the entertainment industry, they have to be able to make informed choices that may deviate from the norm and establish unique methodologies.”

Students speak about this rare blend of the practical and the innovative: “Mr. Stevenson has a unique ability to use the creative side of his brain and blend those creative insights in the more practical applications. His passion for the best quality work is unlike any other. He is extremely meticulous in his answers of his students’ questions and always encourages his students to go deeper with the questions they have asked… Since the moment that I stepped into our program, he has been an influential force in my education.”

Supporting Mr. Stevenson’s teaching is an impressive list of professional productions on which he has worked over the course of his career. Particularly notable is his tenure as Technical Director for the Utah Shakespeare Festival from 2004-2012. Between that position and his work for the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival, Mr. Stevenson has worked his way through nearly all of the Bard’s plays and hopes to someday complete the canon.

Mr. Stevenson completed his bachelor's degree in Directing at Central Michigan University and earned his master's degree in Technical Direction from the North Carolina School of the Arts. In addition to his academic degrees, he continues to engage in training in such diverse areas as high angle rescue certification, entertainment technician certification program rigger, and knuckle boom operator certification. Prior to joining the faculty of UNCSA, he provided technical direction and taught technical theatre coursework at Southern Utah University, UNCG-Greensboro, and Alma College.

Contact: Judy Sivansay

Dec. 20, 2016

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