Each year the Faculty Senate Teaching Enhancement Committee selects recipients for a variety of campus-wide teaching awards. Annually, these awards recognize exceptional teachers and teaching advancement at The University of New Mexico. This year, more than 35 faculty were recognized with various awards.

“Although UNM is a research university, it is also our mission to ‘provide students the values, habits of mind, knowledge and skills that they need to be enlightened citizens, to contribute to the state and national economies and to lead satisfying lives,’” said Aeron Haynie, executive director, Center for Teaching and Learning. "These teaching award winners apply the same intellectual rigor and creativity to their teaching as they do to their research. They make a profound impact on their students' lives.”

The first award, the Presidential Teaching Fellowship, was presented to Christopher Butler, an associate professor in the department of Political Science. This award is the highest recognition for excellent teaching at UNM. Fellows carry a special responsibility for ensuring teaching excellence by sharing their expertise with the University community.

“Butler has consistently improved the homework, quiz, and test scores of students over the decade he has taught this class,” wrote an anonymous colleague. “He has never been satisfied with the results of his intensive evaluation of student learning objectives and strives to revise and refine his teaching tools every semester.”

Butler teaches courses that range from Introduction to Political Analysis and International Politics, to a seminar on the Statistics of Conflict and Statistics for Social Research.

“Butler takes great teaching to a whole new level by revamping his curriculum to fit the needs and interests of his students as he did by “gamifying” his learning objectives and enticing students to achieve, improve and go above and beyond in order to ‘level up!’” said a student.

The Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award was presented to two recipients including Heather Canavan and Finnie Coleman. The award recognizes teaching excellence and fosters a campus climate that supports teaching improvement and accomplishment.

Coleman is an associate professor in the Department of English Language and Literature. Prior to his career in academia, Coleman served in the Persian Gulf and Germany as an Army intelligence officer. Coleman teaches courses in Hip Hop Culture, Black Lives Matter, and African-American literature and cultural history, where he focuses on the manifold functions of culture and shifting definitions of race at critical moments in African-American history.

“When I met Coleman as an undergraduate student, I was struggling in academia. I was on a path guided by nobody, including myself – a first generation college student navigating choppy waters and approaching a six-year career as a Bachelor’s degree seeker,” said one of Coleman’s students. “Coleman’s class at first intimidated me – I will admit. As I journeyed through the sixteen weeks of his course, I realized what I was capable of, while at times falling short but being encouraged to try again, not for the sake of a grade, but because it was/is what I owed myself. When I left his course, I felt equipped and capable for the rest of my journey.”

Canavan is an associate professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. Her research focuses on cell/surface interactions, bioactive polymers and biocompatibility, and the design of adaptive tools and devices for enhanced mobility.

“From explaining tissue engineering to fifth graders to explaining statistical thermodynamics to a class of graduate students, Canavan has the uncanny ability to simplify the subject matter into easily understandable pieces and then bring the topic back together in a way that leaves the student feeling not only that they learned something new, but also excited to apply this new knowledge,” said an anonymous friend of Canavan’s.

Other awardees included:

  • New Teacher of the Year — Jason Moore, Jaimi Nunez and Kate Cartwright
  • Lecturer of the Year — Asal Naseri, Regina Chavez Puccetti and Peter Lisignoli
  • Teaching Assistant of the Year — Kelly Cardoso da Silva, Sarah Worland, Mary Hershberger, Benjamin Burnett and Kellin Rumsey
  • Mentor of the Year — Thomas Chavez
  • Ally of the Year — Ricky Allen

There were also over 25 Golden Paw awards given out to faculty from various departments who taught exemplary online courses.

To be eligible for awards, a teacher must first be nominated for an award. Nominations can be made by students, past or present, or faculty. The nominees then must fill out a lengthy application, submit letters of recommendation, teaching statements and course materials. There are several committees and subcommittees with representatives from across the University who then review the application packets and make the final decisions.

For more information, visit Center for Teaching and Learning.