COVID couldn't stop the magic from happening. And in 2020-2021 especially, winners of UVA's teaching awards found, more than ever, that their ability to connect across topics and platforms not only continued but got stronger, keeping students engaged, building trust, and becoming what their students insist they are: the best professors they have had at the University of Virginia.
“This year’s teaching award winners reflect the hard work, creativity and dynamism we see from all of our faculty, every day,” Liz Magill, executive vice president and provost, said. “Especially this year, our awardees have created learning environments to engage students and support their best learning in an unusual and challenging environment. They have fostered intellectual excitement and resiliency at a time when our students needed both more than ever.”
Congraulations to the School of Nursing's two faculty members whose teaching sparked connection and admiration, even amid the roil of a pandemic and a societal lockdown.
All-University Faculty Teaching Award
• Maureen Metzger, assistant professor of nursing
After 30 years as a practicing oncology nurse, 20 in direct patient care, Metzger switched to teaching in 2016. In her teaching statement, she wrote that it changed her life and she “fell in love with teaching,” to which her colleagues and students can attest.
One alumna, who graduated a few years ago, wrote: “From the beginning, Dr. Metzger made her classroom an open space for learning and a launch pad into our independent practice. In case studies and lectures, she emphasized the vulnerability patients experience during transitions in their health care journey and gently drew the parallel to our transitions from student to nurse, reminding us of the humanity that we all share.”
Metzger shared her dreams in her teaching statement, writing, “My dream for myself as a teacher was then, and is now, to create learning environments in which students experience a sense of belongingness and believe they have the power to become the nurses they dream of becoming. … Resilience is an essential ingredient of a nursing practice characterized by sustained meaning and joy.”
Alumni Board of Trustees Teaching Award
• Elgin Cleckley, assistant professor of architecture and design thinking, School of Architecture, with appointments in the schools of Education and Human Development and of Nursing
Cleckley teaches courses including “Foundations of Design Thinking” and “Introduction to Designing and Thinking,” as well as design research studios. With the inability to take field trips in fall 2020, his design research studio for undergraduate and graduate students in the architecture and landscape architecture departments focused on the history and experiences of the Great Migration of African Americans, material that inspired students’ proposed installation in Grand Central Station’s Vanderbilt Hall in New York City.
“The outpouring of testimonials I received from students in this class was astounding,” wrote Sheila Crane, associate professor and chair of the Architectural History Department. “One of these … offered a concise formulation of sentiments repeated by nearly every student in the course: ‘What really struck me from the first day of class was the way Elgin was thinking about how to build a learning community in our remote-learning condition. He made spaces for us to talk with a few of our peers on a more intimate level during studio so we could build studio friendships without staring back at a screen full of 12 faces in awkward silence. He thought of ways we could present our work as a part of a collective presentation during reviews, rather than treating our work in isolation. In this and so many other ways, Elgin took on the challenge of the dispiriting nature of learning in the pandemic, and found a way to make class fun, collaborative, and with a sense of belonging that really fueled the design work. To me this shows a great deal of empathy, care and dedication to his students, which shows why he is one of the best that UVA has to offer.’”
“To me, it’s the best job in the world,” Cleckley wrote in his reflective teaching statement. “Seeing students overcome the complexities of design and visualization [and grow] into confidence in their ideas and the ability to express them is a joy. It fuels me to see them succeed. It is a life project I’ve been developing since my time as a student at UVA, evolving into a self– formulated design practice, initiative, and pedagogy titled _mpathic (for “empathic”) design.