LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 24, 2022) — Six University of Kentucky educators have been named 2022 Great Teachers by the UK Alumni Association.
Initiated in 1961, UK’s Great Teacher Award is the longest-running UK award recognizing teaching. In order to receive the award, educators must first be nominated by a student. The UK Alumni Association Great Teacher Award Committee, in cooperation with the student organization Omicron Delta Kappa, then makes the final selection. Recipients receive an engraved plaque and stipend.
UK’s 2022 Great Teachers are:
- Beth Barnes — College of Communication and Information
- Zachary Bray — J. David Rosenberg College of Law
- Olivia Davis — Gatton College of Business and Economics
- Jack Groppo — College of Engineering
- Cortney Lollar — J. David Rosenberg College of Law
- Beth Rous — College of Education
The winners were honored last night at the UK Alumni Association Great Teacher Award Recognition Dinner, and were later recognized during the Louisiana State University vs. Kentucky men’s basketball game that same evening.
Learn more about the 2022 Great Teachers based on comments from their nominators:
Courtney Cavallo, an integrated strategic communication (ISC) senior, nominated Barnes for her real-world teaching style.
“In every lecture I had with Dr. Barnes, she never put up a slideshow and simply read off the slides. Instead, her lectures were thoroughly engaging, providing real-world examples from her personal experience in the field and beyond. As a senior, leaving soon to enter the workforce, I have never felt as prepared, as Dr. Barnes exposed us to numerous resources that made us feel like true ISC professionals.”
In addition to her vast knowledge of the ISC field, Cavallo said Barnes truly cares about her students.
“Dr. Barnes is always available and makes that very clear to her students. I have never had another professor who cared for their students like she does. As a result, every student was comfortable in her teaching environment and more receptive to her teaching, as we felt the love and care she put into being a professor.”
Michaela Taylor, a UK Rosenberg Law student, nominated Bray for his ability to help students grasp difficult concepts, and for prioritizing his students’ mental health.
“In the classroom, Professor Bray is able to take complicated and obscure concepts and apply them to real life situations that make the material easier to understand,” Taylor said. “Students feel comfortable working through hard concepts with him without feeling judged, which can be a fear for many, especially in law school. Even with a young child, in a pandemic, Bray went above and beyond to facilitate good discussion to make Zoom class seem as interactive and normal as possible.
But beyond ensuring that students are engaged in the material, “he continuously emphasized that breaks, in law school, are important for overall mental health and made sure that we felt comfortable taking them. He is a strong supporter of the law school mental health week and has been a resource to students in regards to mental health.”
Adam Rogers, a graduate student in the Gatton College majoring in accounting, nominated Davis because of her encyclopedic knowledge of current events and her ability to integrate those events into class discussions.
“For each accounting concept taught in class, Professor Davis is always able to illuminate the point with real-world applications that make the digestion of the material much more enriching,” Rogers said. “Accounting can be a tedious subject, but I’ve seen students — myself included — get excited about learning. She provides us with the ‘why’ to our questions, not just the ‘what.’”
Additionally, Rogers said Davis’ “superpower” is always being there for her students.
“She has reached and changed the lives of countless students by giving them excellent career advice and has demonstrated time and time again her willingness to put her students’ needs ahead of her own.”
Hart Zebulon, a mining engineering graduate student, nominated Groppo not only for his subject expertise, but because he is always there for his students.
“The primary benefit of Professor Groppo’s extensive base of knowledge and experience is his ability to answer questions with an unparalleled amount of subject matter authority. For students who wish to pursue careers in the fields of beneficial reuse, recycling and sustainability, this is a tremendous asset,” Zebulon said. “Commonly, when a student needs advice related to an internship or job opportunity, or even difficulties with class, they search out an available faculty member. From personal experience, I can say, when you open the door to the mining department faculty office suite and look down the hallway, you will see a light — the light from Professor Groppo’s office. He is always there for his students.”
Michaela Taylor also nominated Lollar for fostering an environment which gives students the confidence to share their thoughts.
“Professor Lollar has gone above and beyond in creating methods of student engagement during the pandemic. I can confidently say that I would not have understood criminal law had it not been for her teaching style,” Taylor said. “Discussion in our criminal procedure class gets to the core issues of our criminal justice system, and although there are many opinions in the room, Professor Lollar makes sure to allow all voices to be heard.”
Lollar also regularly engages with students on material outside of the curriculum, checking in on them after verdicts and sentencings of high-profile cases that hit home for many students.
“Although the office hour was only scheduled for 15 minutes, she took the time to really listen to me on an issue completely outside of the normal student-professor relationship. After talking to classmates, I know I am just one of the many who have had experiences like this with her.”
Christopher Joseph Hayden IV, a graduate student in educational leadership studies, said what makes Rous unique as a professor is her personal commitment to students and their success.
“By no means will she ‘do it for you’ but she knows how to help a student gain the skills and tools they need to complete their pursuit. She never gives up on a student and will keep offering various ways to support.”
Hayden credits Rous’ "show" rather than "tell" teaching methods for his success in learning about educational leadership.
“I had never truly realized the idea of making students feel comfortable asking for help and providing opportunities for them to do that in a supportive and structured fashion until I experienced Dr. Rous’ approach through our program.”
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.