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Feb. 25, 2013/For Immediate Release, high res. photos available

Media Contact: Lauren Whitaker, 336-734-2891, whitakerl@uncsa.edu

SIX UNCSA Faculty Receive Excellence in Teaching Awards


(Winston-Salem) Six faculty members at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) have received Excellence in Teaching Awards. The awards were announced earlier this month.

The recipients are James Allbritten, School of Music; Martha Golden, High School Academic Program; Renata Jackson, School of Filmmaking; John LeBlanc, School of Filmmaking, Geordie McMinn, School of Drama; and Bland Wade, School of Design and Production.

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors established a series of "Excellence in Teaching" awards in 1994. The policy notes that the awards are to "encourage, identify, recognize, reward and support good teaching within the university."

At UNCSA, recipients are chosen each year from those current, full-time members of the faculty who are nominated to receive an award. One of them is then forwarded on to the UNC Board of Governors to receive a system wide teaching award, which includes a commemorative bronze medallion and a stipend of $7,500. That winner will also be honored during commencement exercises in May.

James Allbritten, School of Music

Jamie Allbritten has served on the faculty of the School of Music since 1994 and as artistic director of the A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute since 2001. During his time at UNCSA Allbritten has also held positions as principal conductor for the UNCSA Cantata Singers and the UNCSA Orchestra.

Nominators noted that Allbritten is not training musicians to perform specific works of music; he is training musicians to succeed in any setting. He enables his students to have the tools they need to win jobs and remain employed doing what they love to do in the real world. Allbritten discussed this in his artistic and teaching philosophy statement, noting the factors that contribute to the selection of Fletcher Institute performances each year. “I choose operas based on what I think might best serve as challenging educational experiences for my students,” he wrote. “Many schools choose operas first and students second. At the Fletcher Institute, we choose students first and operas second. Again, it is more time consuming and difficult, but ultimately more worthwhile for the growth of the students.”

Allbritten’s commitment and professionalism are evident in evaluations he has received from both his students and his fellow faculty members. A student stated, “Mr. Allbritten exemplifies such a mastery of the music. I learn each and every day, and have grown so much through being a part of this ensemble.”

According to the Excellence in Teaching Awards Committee: “Jamie is what excellence in teaching is all about: a person with integrity, a thorough knowledge and enthusiasm for each subject taught, a respect and understanding for the learning process and the art forms that he teaches/conducts, and professional affiliations that provide opportunities for his students when they are ready. He demands the best of everyone around him.”

Martha Golden, High School Academic Program







Martha Golden has taught three levels of high school French at UNCSA since joining the faculty of the High School Academic Program in 1993. During her time at UNCSA, she has also served as the High School Academic Program advisor to the Student Leadership Board, as chair of the Foreign Language Department, as a member of the School Improvement Team and the SACS Reaccreditation team.

Golden has high standards and expectations, but the atmosphere of her classroom is described as a “French party.” When you enter her classroom, “… you walk in, and you are in another world. France surrounds you on all sides,” a student noted.

Golden is a dedicated and sensitive teacher who puts her students and their individual needs first. A student nominator described the impact that this had on his learning experience. “Mademoiselle’s knowledge of French culture and etiquette is what adds that special flare to her class. She has a detailed memory of all her experiences in France, and always has the perfect story to tie a lesson together,” the student noted.

Golden is a dedicated and sensitive teacher who puts her students and their individual needs first. A student nominator described the impact that this had on his learning experience. “Mademoiselle’s knowledge of French culture and etiquette is what adds that special flare to her class. She has a detailed memory of all her experiences in France, and always has the perfect story to tie a lesson together,” the student noted.

In her teaching philosophy statement, Golden discussed how she works diligently to help meet each student where he/she is, and to ensure they  maximize their learning. “Learning a language is a highly individual process,” she stated. “The work I do with each of my high school students at UNCSA is affected by a myriad of factors such as their language backgrounds; interests; daily academic, artistic, and residential experiences; motivation; natural ability; learning difficulties; and future plans.”

According to the Excellence in Teaching Awards Committee: “It is clear that Golden is committed to helping students become the true ‘citizen artists’ that we value so highly on our campus. Student learning and student welfare are at the heart of her instruction, and these two elements are the essence of excellence in teaching.”

Renata Jackson, School of Filmmaking

Dr. Renata Jackson has been with UNCSA for 15 years, joining the School of Filmmaking as a member of the Cinema Studies faculty in 1998. She has also served as the assistant dean of academics for the Film school since 2007 and as chair of the campus-wide Educational Policies Committee since 2000.

Jackson’s concern for students, enthusiasm for teaching, command of the subject being taught, and her ability to motivate student effort are all clearly articulated by a student who nominated her. “Ms. Jackson is a teacher that whole-heartedly embodies her subject matter… . If you were to ever hear Professor Jackson talk about films (in general) you would be able to see that she speaks from her heart with a true love for cinema and a great passion for teaching it,” the student noted.

A colleague of Jackson’s spoke to her ability to bridge the academic and the artistic in a way that captures the interest of her students, and helps them develop as well-rounded filmmakers. “Employing a non-theoretical approach to teaching Cinema Studies, Dr. Jackson has found the perfect way to communicate with film students not particularly interested in film history or aesthetics. Her lectures are filled with knowledge and insights, but are not overly academic, and always emphasize the practical creative decisions that mark a great film,” the colleague wrote.

Jackson spoke of her approach to preparing aspiring filmmakers in her teaching philosophy statement. “My goal in the classroom…is for these young artists to come away with an understanding of the cultural, historical, and aesthetic contexts of key works of film-art, as well as to have a command of various terms through which they not only can speak articulately and analytically about existing films, but also through which they may be able to think creatively about their own productions,” she wrote.

While Jackson is afforded great adoration and respect from her students, she also sets a very high bar for their class performance. A student evaluator noted, “Ms. Jackson’s classes are extremely demanding. She expects every student to be committed just as she is. [She] transforms her classes from a simple ‘cinema studies’ class to a class that explores global history, culture, and filmmaking.”

According to the Excellence in Teaching Awards Committee: “This expectation of distinctive work in her students helps show why she is an excellent teacher.”

John LeBlanc, School of Filmmaking

John LeBlanc has been a member of the cinematography faculty in UNCSA’s School of Filmmaking since 2006. In his philosophy of teaching statement, he discussed his focus on developing well-rounded and technically proficient cinematographers. “When my students leave here as cinematographers, I want them to know that they are well trained as artists and technicians so they will have confidence going out into their professional field,” he wrote.

A colleague also commented on LeBlanc’s commitment to bridging students’ transition from the idyllic campus environment to the real world. “Always the teacher, John involves his students in extracurricular productions, once again providing his problem-solving insight and knowledge,” the colleague noted. “His aim is to create a professional, workshop-like atmosphere in which students can more easily make the transition to the professional world.”

LeBlanc’s nominator called attention to his concern for students, his ability to motivate, and his organization of knowledge for student use. “He always puts the students first and encourages us to experiment. He allows for creative expression and exploration…and provides the necessary suggestions to make you realize what you should be doing.”

A colleague in the School of Filmmaking commented on LeBlanc’s commitment to student learning. “John’s dedication to the school and its students is unmistakable. The door to John’s office is always open, and lines of students who are waiting to see him attest to his generous involvement with them. It is clear that he has earned their loyalty and trust.”

His enthusiasm for the subject he teaches and his commitment to the UNCSA community go beyond his classroom. LeBlanc is well known around the campus because of his strong interest in collaborating with faculty and students, not only in Film, but across campus.  A student who nominated LeBlanc for the award said, “He is such an important figure here to so many people; he allows for creative expression and exploration more than normally accepted in this institution.”

Geordie MacMinn, School of Drama

Geordie MacMinn has served as a member of the School of Drama faculty at UNCSA since 2003. MacMinn is an excellent teacher who empowers his students with the ability to find and express themselves with their own voice. He is a teacher of the Alexander Technique, which has broad application in many of the disciplines offered at the University. In his teaching philosophy statement, MacMinn discussed his passion for the Alexander Technique, and how it can transform an actor’s ability to successfully embody a role. “My philosophy of teaching is to work with the artist as a human being first, and as an actor second. The technique is to educate the connections: self to self, self to others, and self to audience,” he wrote.

Both instructors and students nominated MacMinn, speaking directly to his dedication, talent, and effectiveness as a teacher. A colleague’s statement aptly describes MacMinn’s impact on the school and its students. “He is an exceptionally gifted teacher with the ability to embody a razor-sharp mind and fiercely passionate heart. His dedication and compassion are infectious. Many students have shared with me that Mr. MacMinn’s classes are vital not just to their training as actors, but to their growth and development as human beings, too.”

There are clearly a number of factors that have contributed to MacMinn’s success as a faculty member at UNCSA. A student nominator described why MacMinn is such a worthy recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award. “All of the grounded work I did in college, I attribute to Mr. MacMinn,” the nomination stated. “His work taught me more about myself than most acting teachers I’ve had. He did this without imposing anything onto me, and it’s due to his gentle nature as a teacher. He allows for anything and everything, creating the safest environment for his students.”

Bland Wade, School of Design and Production

As an alumnus of UNCSA, Bland Wade understands firsthand the demands placed on School of the Arts students. He rejoined the School of Design and Production in 1981 as a member of the faculty. Since 1986 he has also served as director of the Stage Properties program.

A colleague described Wade’s teaching style as “informative, nurturing, and inspired,” explaining that “students feel encouraged by Bland to explore their creative potential, skills and talents through their manipulation of materials, forms and textures. Bland urges experimentation, which plays a vital role in students’ progress.”

In his teaching philosophy statement, Wade commented on how this approach to nurturing a student’s development is a key component of his method. “It is my belief that there are varying styles of learning, and as the teacher, I must be aware of the abilities of the individual students, their needs, strengths, and weaknesses. All students, regardless of their talent, should be evaluated and assessed on their participation, attitude, and ability to take risks and grow.”

Wade’s gentle guidance and deep commitment to the student’s growth has contributed greatly to the professional success of his students after graduation. A student nominator wrote quite eloquently on this point, noting, “He leads by example, and takes the time to make clear to his students that our lives will be as fulfilling and our interests as broad as we make them – that it is not enough in life to develop professionalism, or to network, or to become great artists, unless we develop our human relationships and expand our knowledge base without prompting. He is a living example of how being a proactive self-educator and a fair person will take us so much farther in life. He has helped me grow as a peer and as an individual so much more than I could ever quantify.”                                               

As America’s first state-supported arts school, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts is a unique stand-alone public university of arts conservatories. With a high school component, UNCSA is a degree-granting institution that trains young people of talent in music, dance, drama, filmmaking, and design and production. Established by the N.C. General Assembly in 1963, the School of the Arts opened in Winston-Salem (“The City of Arts and Innovation”) in 1965 and became part of the University of North Carolina system in 1972. World-renowned conductor and educator John Mauceri became Chancellor of UNCSA in 2006. For more information, visit www.uncsa.edu.