Jan. 25, 2012 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE / Photos attached
Media Contact: Marla Carpenter, 336-770-3337,


WINSTON-SALEM – Five faculty members at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) have received Excellence in Teaching Awards.  The awards were announced on Tuesday.

They include: Eric Larsen, School of Music; Joe Lopina, School of Filmmaking; Kelly Maxner, School of Drama; Nancy Streblow, High School Academic Program; and Will Taylor, School of Design & Production Visual Arts Program.

Eric LarsenEric Larsen, School of Music

Mr. Eric Larsen has served as a member of the Music faculty since 1978. In his artistic/teaching philosophy statement, Eric discusses his passion for teaching, and how he feels that his work at UNCSA is a way of giving to students the same type of goodwill and fortune that he has received during his career. He comments on this, saying that “The nature of teaching a musician is intimate and personal. It must deal with the whole person and not, in this case, ten fingers. The information I have to offer is necessarily personalized to meet the needs of each student.”


This idea of being focused on working with each student as an individual to help them become the most well-rounded and successful artist-citizen possible is apparent in a student’s letter of nomination. The student stated that “…my piano teacher Mr. Larsen has not only trained me to be a better pianist, but has also taught me how to be a respectable musician, a responsible person.” This student-centered approach was also noted by one of Eric’s supporters, who commented that “His teaching methodology uses a student-centered approach that relies heavily on the creation of a strong sense of community within his studio. This is plainly visible in the master class setting, where I have witnessed students who speak openly, honestly, and supportively about the performances of their peers.”


While there are clearly a number of discrete factors that contribute to Eric’s success, perhaps the student nominator’s concluding thoughts best summarize why Eric is such a worthy recipient of this Excellence in Teaching Award: “He is a wonderful pianist, an admirable teacher, an earnest musician, a good person.”


Joe LopinaJoe Lopina, School of Filmmaking

While he has been a member of the faculty since 2008, Mr. Joe Lopina has worked in the School of Filmmaking in a variety of roles since the program’s inception in 1993. He has had the opportunity to serve as a member of the staff, the faculty, as Chair of the Animation Department, and as an Assistant Dean; the variety of duties and responsibilities highlight Joe’s talent and dedication to developing filmmakers.


Joe’s passion for teaching and learning is summarized in his philosophy statement, where he mentions that “The process of questioning, listening, and learning about each other provides an opportunity to better understand and recognize the various perspective in the classroom, and can potentially facilitate a more constructive dialog that thoughtfully transforms information into knowledge. “ Joe’s student evaluations are incredibly positive, with students commenting on the outstanding quality of instruction he provides, while also pushing them to achieve even greater levels of success. This ability to be supportive while demanding excellence was noted in his peer evaluation, with the committee commenting that he “…is prepared, articulate, and enthusiastic in the classroom, expecting only the best from his students. As good a classroom teacher as he is, his real strength lies in one-on-one tutorials with his students. He is able to use his considerable skills and innate enthusiasm to extract the best possible work from each student.”


The unique merging of differing skills and perspectives that Joe possesses directly benefits his students artistically and educationally. This confluence of differing talents is best described by his nominator, who said “His membership in both Animation and Puppetry guilds ensures his being aware of current developments in his field; his involvement with CDI puts him on the cutting edge of the newest design technologies. His doctoral research on the cultural effects of media and the influence…it has in shaping the way we learn… gives him insight into the latest theories and practices of pedagogy.”


Kelly MaxnerKelly Maxner, School of Drama

Mr. Kelly Maxner has experienced UNCSA as a student, an alumnus, a member of the faculty, and since 2006, as Director of Drama’s High School Program. A recurring theme throughout his nominations, letters of support, and evaluations was a rigorous commitment to excellence while taking the time to meet each student where they are. Kelly talks about this dedication to excellence in his philosophy of teaching, stating that “I believe in taking the time to be tenacious and specific. We live in a vague and general society that allows and encourages its members to skim the surface…I am committed to asking the hard questions that lead to the discovery of the vital and profound specifics.”


This tenacity is tempered, however, by a very clear dedication and desire to care for and foster the development of his students. A sentiment echoed by many of them in course evaluations is aptly summarized by the following comment: “Kelly is always available and more than willing to help any and every student in our ensemble – he keeps a watchful eye on our individual needs and because of his ability to challenge each and every one of us we have all grown…as artists and as people”


Kelly has benefited from a diverse and successful artistic background that began with formal training in dance (BFA, UNCSA) directing (BFA, UNCSA) and choreography (MFA, Smith College). He has taken those disparate backgrounds and transformed them into a successful artistic career that has informed and influenced his outstanding teaching at UNCSA. A peer evaluator aptly summarized what makes Kelly such an outstanding member of the faculty, stating that “He challenges his students without being gruff, sets standards that are high but able to be accomplished and demands and gets the best out of them. Those that have a future in professional theatre are given a solid foundation in the work, and those that will travel other paths learn the joy that can come with discipline and commitment.”


Nancy StreblowNancy Streblow, High School Academic Program

Ms. Nancy Streblow has taught in the UNCSA High School Academic Program since 2006. A faculty member that teaches AP Literature and English Composition, Nancy strives to see continued development from her students while helping them understand and appreciate literature of all genres. Nancy has a strong desire to see her students prepared to excel in their next steps in life. She talks about how this translates into the importance of her role as an AP Literature teacher, stating that “My task…is to awaken their critical thinking, foster their reading and writing skills, and prepare them for achieving college credit for this high school course by taking the AP exam.” Nancy has truly succeeded in this objective, as 92% of her students have passed the AP examination since she joined UNCSA, earning valuable credit towards a future college degree.


Technology has changed virtually everything about our society, and education is no different. Rather than hide from technology, Nancy actively embraces it as a way to improve her students understanding of the material at hand. She has integrated Facebook and YouTube into her classroom (comparing Jimi Hendrix playing “Purple Haze” to Lord Byron), and encourages students to embrace non-traditional forms of class presentations, including skits, songs, and monologues. This melding of approaches is apparent when Nancy discusses that she “…incorporates film, visual art, television shows, and pop songs into my discussions and encourage [students] to see films and compare them to the novels they have read.”


Nancy passionately believes in and pushes each and every one of her students. This sentiment was well captured in her letter of nomination, with the individual noting that “…the student can count on personal attention; the student will be required to express an opinion and defend it; the teacher will demand thought and articulation.”


Will TaylorWill Taylor, School of Design & Production – Visual Arts Program

A member of the faculty of Design & Production since 2005, Mr. Will Taylor additionally assumed the responsibility of Director of the Visual Arts Program in 2011. Will is a committed artist and teacher who desires to maximize a student’s technical ability, while ensuring they have a broad array of skills to bring to bear later in life. This concept is clearly on display in his teaching philosophy statement, when he says “In addition to producing versatile craftsmen, I am equally committed to producing creative thinkers. I intend to arm students with the appropriate vernacular, skill sets, and conceptual breadth to liberate personal philosophies and aesthetics within our visual discipline.”


As an incredibly prepared and thorough faculty member, Will strives to ensure that his students are being presented with the most rigorous and appropriate form of instruction. A peer commented that “He professionally devises and implements his course of study with thoughtfully planned projects that push students’ technical proficiency and stretch their conceptual capacity, while helping them to develop a responsible aesthetic vocabulary.” This sentiment was echoed by a student, who stated the following in the evaluation process: “Will is a teacher who challenges you to think/view your art in a way you normally would not. The variety of mediums gives you a wide range of experiences while still tying in key themes and principles.”


Will has consistently worked to ensure that his pedagogy reflects artistic standards that are both current and relevant; this was highlighted by another member of the faculty, who said that “…he has shown a strong concern for both professional development (exhibitions, conference presentations, grants) and excellence in teaching. Students in both his VA and D&P classes produce consistently strong work, and often reference lessons learned in his class and other contexts.” While his technical proficiency is readily apparent, the following statement perhaps shows why he is so successful” “Will’s inventive spirit and project ideas are born, I believe, out of his limitless imagination. His teaching style could best be described as passionate, driven, and sensitive.”


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.


The Board of Governors will meet in February to select the recipients of the UNC Board of Governors Excellence in Teaching Awards.

The University of North Carolina School of the Arts is the first state-supported, residential school of its kind in the nation. Established as the North Carolina School of the Arts by the N.C. General Assembly in 1963, UNCSA opened in Winston-Salem (“The City of the Arts”) in 1965 and became part of the University of North Carolina system in 1972. More than 1,100 students from middle school through graduate school train for careers in the arts in five professional schools: Dance, Design and Production (including a Visual Arts Program), Drama, Filmmaking, and Music. UNCSA is the state’s only public arts conservatory, dedicated entirely to the professional training of talented students in the performing, visual and moving image arts. Internationally renowned conductor John Mauceri has been chancellor of UNCSA since 2006. UNCSA is located at 1533 S. Main St., Winston-Salem. For more information, visit www.uncsa.edu.