TU’s 2019 Outstanding Teachers announced

Clinical Professor of Athletic Training Greg Gardner, McFarlin Professor of Psychology Elana Newman and Associate Professor of Art History Kirsten Olds are TU’s Outstanding Teachers for 2019. Through their devotion to teaching and mentoring, they mold the character and work ethic of students to prepare them for a successful career and thoughtful life.

The university inaugurated the Distinguished Award for Outstanding Teaching in 1980. Honorees may receive the award once in a lifetime, and only three awards are made annually. The award is especially meaningful because it must be initiated by a student’s nomination, and the winners are selected by colleagues who serve on the Faculty Affairs Committee of the Faculty Senate. Each honoree receives a medal and a stipend.

Greg Gardner

Throughout 33 years of teaching, Gardner has maintained the highest levels of performance, and TU has been proud to call him faculty since 1995. Gardner received his Doctorate of Education in 1995 from The University of Southern Mississippi. With 30 years of continuous clinical experience, he is a certified athletic trainer, and using innovative teaching and athletic training techniques, he is respected for his versatility in the clinical environment. He is recognized as a distinguished member of athletic training professional associations and maintains an active role in developing policy and curriculum to advance athletic training practices. At TU, Gardner led the charge in developing the accelerated Masters Athletic Training degree.

It is important to note that Gardner has accomplished what he has in the classroom while producing an equally impressive record of consulting and service representing TU. In 2018, the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) recognized Gardner with the Athletic Trainer Service Award; this award recognizes service of at least 20 years as NATA member and holding credentials conferred by the Board of Certification. Previously, October 2017 the Commission on Accreditation awarded him for Athletic Training Education with the Bob and Lynn Caruthers Service Award. These awards recognize excellence, commitment, mentoring and contributions to the athletic training profession, grassroots efforts, public relations and overall contributions to the discipline of athletic training.

Along with his awards, Garner’s students were eager to nominate him as an Outstanding Teacher. They are enthusiastic about his classes and teaching style. “The core foundation of my teaching philosophy is that you have to be responsive to the capabilities and skill level of your student as well as acknowledging the level of difficulty of the content,” Gardner said. 

Student Comments

  • “Provided information on the subject beyond what was covered in the book. Used real-life examples from his time in athletic training to help us understand and apply the material.” 
  • “He commits so much time and effort to his students and providing them with the best opportunities to succeed.”
  • “Dr. Gardener is always committed to seeing his students succeed. He goes out of his way to ensure that they end the semester leaving with more knowledge than they started the semester with.”

Elana Newman

Since starting her TU career in 1996, Newman has established herself as an educator who is sensitive to the needs of her students. She is accessible and inspirational to both graduate and undergraduate students. Newman is recognized for her impressive diversity of course offerings, the originality of her teaching style and above all, her demonstrated success in inspiring students to accept the challenges of independent learning.

Consistent with the TU’s emphasis upon research, students are members of her research labs and have benefited greatly from her guidance and mentoring. Additionally, she has conducted independent studies with 14 students, served as faculty advisor for five research projects and introduced several undergraduate practica in order for students to experience the practical application of their academic training. For graduate students, she has chaired a total of 19 dissertation committees. She was a member of two master’s degree committees outside of her discipline and served as an advisor to 18 master’s degree candidates.

She also developed a pilot course for service learning on “Psychology, Immigration and the Law,” which enabled graduate students to accompany law students to Karnes Immigration and Customs Enforcement family detention center to assist in the preparation of families for their initial credible fear/reasonable fear interviews.

Student Comments

  • “Her classroom is a great environment for becoming more knowledgeable and also becoming tolerant of others’ opinions and more empathetic.”
  • “She is excellent at facilitating class discussion and mediating potentially sensitive discussions.”
  • “She motivated me to continue to push myself.”

Kirsten Olds

Ever since Olds became a TU faculty member in 2010, she has earned widespread recognition for her teaching excellence and dedication to students. She is the recipient of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program’s Linda J. Lacey Award for Mentoring Excellence in 2017 and the College of Arts and Sciences Excellence in Teaching Award in 2016. She is known for her diversity and breadth of her course offerings, the originality of her teaching methods and emphasis on active learning and above all her success in inspiring and motivating students with her knowledge, creativity, dedication and enthusiasm.

Olds employs a range of innovative teaching methods and approaches. Central to her teaching philosophy is her recognition that students learn best by doing. In her “Cultural Responses to War in the 20th Century” course, she wanted students to be able to identify, interpret and use primary source materials. The goal was to understand how historians create useful narratives of the past that allows them to contribute to public knowledge of historical events. Students worked in groups to create and mount exhibitions of archival materials from WWI for display in McFarlin Library’s Special Collections.

She strives to connect learning to life outside of the university in order to offer students real-world examples of what they read and study in the classroom. Olds fosters experiential learning in nearly all of her courses by arranging class trips to local museums, galleries, studios, libraries or private collections. Students have the opportunity to view and to interact with artworks and archival collections. During these visits, students meet with arts professionals, who share their work experiences and thus provide students with models for their own future career paths.

Student Comments

  • “I learned way more than I ever thought I could learn in one semester without dying. I came into this class having only taken survey I. So, my brain was hurting pretty often, but this was seriously one of the best classes I’ve taken at TU. I feel like it was very helpful in finding context for my own art and learning how to analyze and write about other artists’ work.”
  • “Olds is intimidatingly smart but patient at the same time. She engages with every student and encourages them to do their best.” 
  • “She was the perfect combination of encouraging but tough. Her attitude towards the class made me want to learn and work hard, but it was not discouraging. She never made me feel like a question was stupid.”