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Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award

The Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award is a tribute to several members of the faculty who influenced and encouraged Thomas Jefferson. The award is intended to recognize today's teachers on the faculty. It is made annually to a younger teaching member of the William & Mary community who has demonstrated, through concern as a teacher and through character and influence, the inspiration and stimulation of learning to the betterment of the individual and society as exemplified by Thomas Jefferson.

Award Recipients
Recent recipients of the Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award
2023 - Stacy Kern-Scheerer, William & Mary Law School
Award citation

Stacy Elizabeth Kern-Scheerer, Clinical Associate Professor of Law and the Director of Clinical Programs at the William & Mary Law School, you inspire your colleagues and students daily. Your successes in the immigration law clinic, in particular, leave students with lasting impressions of lawyers’ capacities to help others.

A faculty leader on teaching, you are fabulously successful in all your classes. Initially hired to teach Legal Research & Writing, you took on additional teaching responsibilities in doctrinal courses in health law, a field you practiced for the U.S. Senate. In under 10 years, you swept William & Mary Law School’s highest teaching awards, a feat made all the more impressive by the fact that the awards are all conferred by different groups. The graduating class twice chose you for the Walter Williams Teaching Award; a committee of faculty, students and alumni chose you for the McGlothlin Teaching Award; and the Dean appointed you the Kelly Professor for Teaching Excellence, a term professorship that obligates the winner to hold workshops for colleagues on improving teaching.

You combine an entrepreneurial mindset with a commitment to service. In 2019, you saw a need for something new: an immigration clinic to provide hands-on learning for students and service to the community. Since you created it in fall 2019, the Law School’s immigration clinic has thrived. The clinic recently won its first asylum case and is now making news by assisting Afghan refugees with visa and residency applications.

Your impact on not just the clients but also the students in the immigration clinic is lifechanging. Student comments from your evaluations routinely emphasize the profound effect you have on their lives. They note: Professor Kern-Scheerer “reminded me of why I came to law school”; she “knew appropriate strategies to motivate us and reassure us”; she “balances well the difficulty of the work but also the necessary human aspect”; and, perhaps most telling of all, Professor Kern-Scheerer’s work demonstrates the “perfect example of the power of having an attorney.”

Professor Stacy Kern-Scheerer, you embody the values we instill in our students at William & Mary. Recently elected to the Williamsburg City Council, you improve our community, your students’ lives and your clients’ welfare. It is most fitting that William & Mary honors you with the 2023 Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award.

2022 - Christopher J. Hein, Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Award citation

Christopher Hein is the consummate modern scholar-teacher: pushing the boundaries of scientific knowledge and deeply engaged in student learning and personal growth. Hein is internationally recognized as an expert in coastal geology. He has an infectious enthusiasm for science and an innate ability to inspire others. His lectures are dynamic, high-energy and interactive, making his courses extremely popular.

Since 2013, Hein has advised seven graduate students in the School of Marine Science at VIMS and a remarkable 20 undergraduates on senior or honors research projects. He currently serves as co-director of the Undergraduate Program in Marine Science and is deeply engaged in diversity, equity and inclusion efforts within his field of study and at the university. He is recognized for his devotion to the personal and professional growth of students, commitment to advancing DEI, and exceptional teaching and mentoring skills.

2021 - Katherine Barko-Alva, School of Education
Award citation

Katherine Barko-Alva, your deep commitment to your students, inspiring mentorship and passion for advancing equity exemplify excellence in teaching.

Your experiences as an immigrant, English learner and scholar of color have shaped your teaching practice and research agenda, which are defined by hope, compassion and action. You embrace vulnerability and humility, co-creating profound learning spaces with your students and fostering authentic trust in the classroom.

Since joining the faculty at William & Mary, you have created and championed both a certificate and master’s program in ESL/Bilingual Education, inspiring students to pursue teaching careers rooted in inclusion, equity and justice. You foster a deep sense of community in the classroom, going above and beyond to remain accessible and supportive for your students. According to a former student, you “advocate out of love, a ferocious love that is backed by both evidence, experience and a razor-sharp mind.”

Your service to William & Mary is characterized by meaningful collaboration. You have taken on the roles of faculty fellow in the Center for Liberal Arts, supporting faculty in creating courses that address issues of equity, inclusion and justice; co-director of WMSURE, mentoring 230 undergraduate students from underrepresented backgrounds as they engage in research; and co-director of the UESTC William & Mary Program, supporting faculty members from our sister university in China as they explore teaching methodologies in higher education.

As an educator with a passion for biography-driven learning, culturally-responsive teaching and innovative family engagement practices, you lead by example through your work in the local community. Together with your students, you collaborate with local faith organizations to support immigrant and multilingual families. When the pandemic struck, you immediately mobilized a team of tutors to support English learners as they and their families navigate virtual learning.

Your impact extends far beyond the boundaries of our campus and local community. You have been involved in numerous initiatives through the Virginia Department of Education to promote multilingual education. You also serve on the ESL advisory board for iCivics, an initiative of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to advance civic education that reaches six million students across the nation.

In recognition of your tireless commitment to a vision of inclusive, high-quality public education for all, and with great expectation for your continued contributions, it is our pleasure to honor you today with the 2021 Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award.

2020 - Leslie Cochrane '05, English and Linguistics
Award citation

Leslie E. Cochrane, your work at the intersections of language and identity guides students successfully through the emotionally-charged and sometimes uncomfortable introspection required in the field of sociolinguistics. Your teaching combines creativity and structured analysis, and integrates the delivery of content with discussion, in-class activities, deep reflection and engagement.

Since joining the faculty at William & Mary, you have created and restructured courses across the linguistics curriculum and contributed to the course offerings of the Departments of English and Anthropology. You transformed the format of the course Language and Culture with deeper student discussion, new readings and assignments and a semester-long guided research component. You served an instrumental role in restructuring the required introductory course Study of Language, helping to standardize core course content across sections and formulate a co-requisite workshop. You have also created a new senior capstone course in the linguistics major, Sociolinguistic Field Methods, where students apply the knowledge they have gained across their undergraduate courses to undertake and describe their own significant research.

Your students consistently praise your clear lectures, support of student learning, enthusiasm and passion for the subject. Their typical comments include: “The class gave students the opportunity to fully experience data collection and analysis within a small timeframe,” “[she] makes the material accessible and easier to understand,” and “she inspires W&M students to become socially active, culturally sensitive adults.”

For several years you have involved students in your own sociolinguistic research, sharing with them your skills and experience as well as insights into faculty-level work, and you have regularly supervised and supported other forms of undergraduate research, including Monroe Scholar projects, honors theses and independent studies courses. We also note your annual extracurricular preparation of students to attend the spring Georgetown University Round Table, an annual linguistics conference, where they have the opportunity to participate as intellectual peers in a national, scholarly conversation that is on the cutting edge of linguistics.

With great expectation for your continued contributions, it is our pleasure to honor you today with the 2020 Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award. 

2019 - Jennifer Gülly, German Studies
Award citation

Jennifer Gülly, since joining the William & Mary faculty in the fall of 2013, you have introduced students to the joys of discovering another culture and learning another language in which to explore and exchange ideas. You have inspired these students to continue achieving through your challenging and caring pedagogy and your innovative course design.

In the classroom, you bring an expertise in German studies, literary and cultural studies, film and media studies and postcolonial and transnational studies, which informs such varied course offerings as From Page to Stage, Coming to Terms with the Nazi Past and Dream and Reality: Vienna 1900-2000. Your teaching at all levels of German studies reflects a commitment to language rights and linguistic diversity. Students who take your lower-level language courses learn lessons on Germany’s minority languages, and all your courses promote the idea that German society is not monolithic but heterogeneous and polyphonic.

Your research interests in the politics of language ideologies and acquisition, in particular, inform your teaching of language. One of your key concerns is to help students overcome their fear of language learning, and students attest to your success in addressing that fear. A current student writes, “I always considered myself a poor language student in high school, but Professor Gülly’s class has really been inspiring to me.” Your colleagues praise your teaching methods, saying they “emphasize student agency, spontaneous speaking, deep cultural understanding, serious intellectual engagement and interpersonal understanding.”

In addition to your research and teaching, you have contributed to your program and department through a variety of service roles. As the coordinator for the German studies program’s undergraduate teaching assistants, you have mentored students who went on to apply for Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships in Germany and Austria, and have twice-directed the summer programs in Potsdam and Berlin. You have served as the German House liaison, were most recently elected one of three department associate chairs, representing the interests of Non-Tenure Eligible (NTE) faculty and oversee the department’s initiatives in the area of diversity and inclusion.

With great expectations for your continued contributions, we are pleased to honor you with the 2019 Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award.

View more recipients of the Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award.