2018 Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching

Honored for their superior teaching, faculty members are nominated by present and former students and colleagues and selected by a committee of alumni, students and faculty.
Homa Amini profile picture

Homa Amini

Professor–Clinical, Director of Advanced Education Program in Pediatric Dentistry
College of Dentistry

Homa Amini’s pediatric dentistry students cannot say enough about her passion for teaching. A student writes, “If I am told someday that I treat my students and patients the way Dr. Amini does, I will have accomplished my career dream.” Adds another: “Dr. Amini is all heart. I chose this program because of her enthusiasm and sheer joy for teaching.”

Amini’s clinical and didactic teaching has garnered national attention. This year she won the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s Lewis Kay Award for Excellence in Education, a peer-driven national recognition of the best teacher in field of pediatric dentistry.

What makes Amini such a great teacher? For one, she does more than lecture; she models the material, as well as how to treat her patients, residents, students and colleagues with respect. She also makes herself available to students. “She is available during and after regular hours, is responsive and demanding of a high-quality effort by all of her students—and they love her for it,” writes a colleague.

She has led curricular reform in areas such as infant oral health, oral health care of pregnant women and advocacy for children’s oral health. Says another colleague, “Her demand in the continuing education field in our specialty continues to grow nationally and her curricula didactically (patient advocacy) and clinically (early and minimally invasive oral health) are used as national models.”

Amini’s genuine care for her students and their professional and personal development is evident. “She draws her students to activities that open their eyes to the inequalities of life and health, and more importantly, to their opportunity and responsibility to effect positive change in young lives,” says a colleague.

Amini received her DDS and master’s in public health from The Ohio State University.

Gregor William Anderson profile picture

Gregor William Anderson

Associate Professor,
Department of History

Gregor William Anderson is an exceptional scholar focused on ancient Greece, historical thought and critical theory, but it’s his skills in the classroom that keep earning accolades. Anderson has previously accepted seven teaching awards—six for his teaching at Ohio State, including the Student Council of Arts and Sciences’ Outstanding Teaching Award, and the Distinguished Teacher Award from the Ohio Academy of History.

Anderson’s exceptionally high teaching scores average 4.93/5.0, including for large lecture classes where it is typically harder to achieve high scores. Students are effusive in their comments about him, often noting, “He always has humor in his lessons to keep us entertained.”

Anderson’s colleagues point to his versatility in the classroom as one of his strengths. “His courses satisfy both the casually interested undergraduate, who may take only this one class in Greek history in her life, and the graduate student who is committed to a professional future as a specialist in the same field,” writes a colleague.

Colleagues also admire his approach to pedagogy. “Greg passionately believes that the practice of history should ultimately be about trying to see past realities through the eyes of those who actually experienced those realities. Such a practice not only helps us to make better sense of the historical evidence. It also offers us altogether new perspectives on our own world, stirring us to deeper critical reflection on our present by allowing us to view it, as it were, through the eyes of the past.”

Anderson holds MA, MPhil and PhD degrees in classics from Yale University.

Georgia Bishop profile picture

Georgia Bishop

Professor and Vice Chair,
Department of Neuroscience

“Absolutely, without a doubt, Dr. Bishop is the best teacher we have had all year,” says one of Georgia Bishop’s neuroscience students, who joins the chorus of Bishop’s current and former students who sing the praises of their exemplary teacher. In her nearly 40-year Ohio State career, the College of Medicine has recognized her for her teaching 11 times.

Despite the incredibly challenging material, Bishop engages her students through active participation. Writes a student, “She invites all questions and brings amazing props to help visual learners. Her PowerPoints are deliberately made to include diagrams and sequential flows that allow students of all calibers to follow along and understand.”

Bishop has also made significant contributions to the Neuroscience Graduate Program curriculum, having developed new courses including the two-semester sequence Foundations of Neuroscience I and II courses that now attract students from multiple graduate programs. Most recently, she has taken the lead on developing a master’s in applied neuroscience to help train a biomedical workforce with expertise in the rapidly expanding field of neuroscience. She has also been incredibly influential in the undergraduate curriculum, having created two courses for the popular new neuroscience major, and often serving on the exam committee for neuroscience majors who are defending their honors theses. She has served as advisor for five PhD students and on 22 PhD dissertation committees and 45 candidacy committees.

Bishop’s outreach to school-age children is phenomenal. From the hands-on demonstrations she gives at schools and places like COSI to the Exploration in Neuroscience High School Summer Camp she founded and more, she has made a huge effort to interest young people in neuroscience.

Bishop holds a PhD from Wayne State University.

Eugenia Costa-Giomi profile picture

Eugenia Costa-Giomi

Professor, School of Music –Music Education
College of Arts and Sciences

Eugenia Costa-Giomi may be an expert in the field of music education and childhood music perception and cognition, but she is a lifelong learner, too. According to one of her graduate students, her commitment to being an “eternal student” is part of what makes Costa-Giomi an outstanding teacher.

“She is continuously searching for new ways of thinking by talking to students, taking courses herself and attending lectures outside of her field,” says another student. “To see an accomplished scholar constantly acknowledging how big this world is and how much there is to learn ... is a sign of humbleness and generosity that exemplifies the best qualities we could hope for in a teacher.”

While her expertise might be daunting to some, the way Costa-Giomi runs her classroom helps students grow into their own as scholars. “Considering her extensive scholarly work, her reputation precedes her in a way that initially intimidated me,” writes a student. “However, she leads very welcoming discussions and makes everyone feel as if they bring something meaningful to class. Her classes challenge me not to just be a better student, but to be a better thinker. She pushes me more intellectually than any other professor I have had.”

Costa-Giomi often combines lectures with opportunities that help students experience the concepts they are studying, such as making music with different instruments. She has mentored many graduate students in the field of music education, and as a colleague points out, “maintains a professional connection and mentor role well beyond graduation.”

Bartow J. Elmore profile picture

Bartow J. Elmore

Assistant Professor, Department of History
College of Arts and Sciences

In a lecture hall with 300 students, it can be challenging to connect with individuals, but that’s exactly what Bartow J. Elmore does in his environmental history classes. “He makes the room feel small and personal,” writes a student. “Professor Elmore is hands down the most exciting, passionate and engaged professor I have ever had!”

It’s a fact not lost on his department. After observing one of Elmore’s classes, a colleague who himself received the Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award, wrote, “Prof. Elmore’s History 2010 was the single strongest teaching performance I’ve ever reviewed.” Elmore’s course enrollments are high, including the new classes he has created; his survey course Making America Modern doubled in enrollment the second time it was offered.

“The buzz reflects Elmore’s innovative pedagogy,” says a colleague.“His popular ‘Coca-Cola Globalization’ class reimagines how we can turn history classes into laboratories for civic action.” The action extends beyond the classroom, as well. Elmore created the Columbus Environmental Digital project in which students examine EPA databases and other reports to assess the environmental health of Columbus neighborhoods, with the goal of eventually producing a digital map for the public.

Elmore’s impact on graduate students is also notable, serving as dissertation advisor for a new environmental historian and mentoring several of the department’s teaching assistants. He launched the Environmental History Lab Group, a workshop that convenes graduate students and faculty working at the intersection of environmental history and the history of science, technology and medicine. Writes a nominator, “This young scholar is well on his way to making a difference not just here on campus, but also in the wider Columbus community.”

Elmore received his PhD and MA from the University of Virginia and his BA from Dartmouth College.

Suzanne Marie Gray profile picture

Suzanne Marie Gray

Assistant Professor, School of Environment and Natural Resources
College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

Suzanne Marie Gray’s aquatic ecology and management courses are a draw for students who appreciate the opportunity to solve problems. One of her innovative pedagogical methods involves assigning students a problem statement to investigate—e.g., how will the planet’s warming affect the metabolisms of freshwater fish, and what physiological adaptations do the fish have that can help with this warming effect? Groups then investigate scientific literature on the subject and write reports. Says a student, “This style of teaching made me think about the underlying processes at work in the broader, overall context. I'm pretty sure that I took in more information in this one semester class than most of my other classes combined.”

The critical thinking skills Gray cultivates in the classroom are useful for the research opportunities she offers to undergraduates. Writes a colleague, “Dr. Gray is our exemplar regarding how to integrate undergraduates into research. She has a system of engaging students as lab assistants to get their feet wet and then prepares them for more active research activities as their ability matures.” In less than four years, Gray has overseen 10 undergraduate research projects—at least five of which have contributed to peer-reviewed publications. Seven of those undergraduates are now pursuing graduate degrees.

Gray has also played an important role in the recruitment of students from under represented backgrounds. Several students in her lab are first-generation college students facing economic challenges. In 2015, she took two of these students along to perform research in Uganda—the first time traveling outside the United States for both.

Gray earned her PhD from Simon Fraser University.

Andrew Frank Heckler profile picture

Andrew Frank Heckler

Professor, Department of Physics
College of Arts and Sciences

Andrew Frank Heckler’s intellectual curiosity does not stop at his chosen discipline of physics; according to colleagues and students, he also endlessly researches pedagogical methods to improve his teaching. “This research,” says a colleague, “spans from cognitive science to nuts-and-bolts classroom mechanics. And he has sought to take every lesson learned from this research into his classroom.”

The results: An exceptional learning environment that engages students through active and collaborative activities that enhance their understanding of complex concepts. Physics majors recognized his efforts in 2016, voting him the Outstanding Undergraduate Physics Teacher.

Heckler’s teaching extends beyond the classroom and into his lab. Writes a student, “I was trying to find a quantitative way to find a hierarchal structure in student data. Dr. Heckler learned of an algorithmic approach to solving the problem. Rather than just providing me with the information, he made sure to read the same material that I was reading so that he would be able to answer any questions I had while learning the algorithm.”

His vast contributions to the curriculum include collaborations with other physics and engineering faculty to redesign the department’s calculus-based physics sequence for Engineering Honors; development of an online application that physics students use to become fluent in basic physics skills; and critical tweaks to upper-level electromagnetism and quantum mechanics courses that incorporated pre-lecture material, clicker questions and group work on difficult material. In addition, Heckler has developed a reputation for welcoming typically underrepresented students in physics, while also working hard to improve STEM education throughout the state.

Heckler received his PhD from the University of Washington, following undergraduate studies at The Ohio State University.

Namiko Kunimoto profile text

Namiko Kunimoto

Assistant Professor, Department of History of Art
College of Arts and Sciences

When Namiko Kunimoto joined Ohio State’s faculty in 2013, there were no Japanese art courses, and History of Photography had not been offered for many years. To remedy this required her to develop a half-dozen courses during her first years on faculty.

The results are courses that demand a high-level of critical thinking from students. “She understands that the social and historical issues we discuss are often complex and do not always have a clear answer,” writes a student. “With this in mind, Professor Kunimoto welcomes students to share their ideas on these topics with an emphasis on well-reasoned arguments rather than on reciting a prescribed answer.”

Often Kunimoto requires students submit a précis of the assigned reading before class, enabling her to assess students’ understanding and engagement. “She teaches that students should always be critical,even of assigned readings. The lesson of thinking independently is one of the most important lessons that a student can learn,” notes a student.

Beyond her regular course load, this past year Kunimoto taught a Freshman Seminar and volunteered as a faculty member for Buckeye First, a program designed for students like herself who were the first in their family to attend college. She advises two PhD students and is or has been on candidacy or dissertation committees for nine others. A third advisee, a Fulbright scholar from Spain who came to Ohio State specifically to work with Professor Kunimoto, has since received her master’s degree and been accepted into the PhD program at Harvard. She has mentored two undergraduates on their STEP projects, organized an event for art history majors about post-graduation career options,and served as the department’s honors advisor and first-year advisor for entering graduate students.

Kunimoto earned her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley.

Beverly Janine Moss profile picture

Beverly Janine Moss

Associate Professor,
Department of English

For three decades, Beverly Janine Moss has contributed to Ohio State’s rich learning environment with her courses that encourage students to use writing for both academic and public purposes. She has previously received the Paul Brown Award for Teaching in English—“a well-deserved prize that attests to her commitment and skill in designing and delivering excellent instruction at the collegiate level,” writes a colleague.

Moss’ classroom has been described as “welcoming and engaging while maintaining rigor.” She emphasizes the importance of diversity, inclusion and critical and creative thinking in courses such as Literacy Narratives of Black Columbus, a second-level writing course that asks students to engage with diversity and community service face-to-face. Her graduate courses are also noteworthy, including Theories of Community Literacy, which orients students toward the writing being done outside the university that sustains cultures, businesses and communities.

Says a student, “Dr. Moss has provided me with invaluable experience with teaching, writing and fieldwork. During her course, I created a video project based on interviews by black business owners and literacy. Through this project, I gained experience with interviewing, researching literacy and editing video. I will use these skills for the rest of my career.”

As a faculty member of color, Moss understands the importance of recruiting and mentoring diverse students through her scholarship and teaching. Writes a colleague, “Her mentorship of students of color, especially Black women, is incredibly important. With so few Black women in the professoriate, teachers like Dr. Moss are needed to serve as role models and mentors for future Black educators and leaders.”

Moss earned her PhD at the University of Illinois, Chicago.

Bradley Okdie profile picture

Bradley Okdie

Associate Professor,
Department of Psychology

At Ohio State’s Newark campus, known for its high standards in teaching, Bradley Okdie stands out. His students love him and go out of their way to say ‘hello’ to him on campus, say colleagues. In 2014, he received the Thomas J. Evans Teaching Excellence Award, the regional campus’ highest honor for teaching.

One only needs to look to Okdie’s work on the Buckeye Generation Learning Community (BGLC) to see why. He teaches Introduction to Psychology through the program that serves first-generation college students who require a high level of support. Says a colleague, “This program has been successful in improving the retention rates of first-generation students, and I have no doubt that Brad played an integral role in that success. He is exceedingly patient with his students.”

Writes a student, “Doctor Okdie is a genuine person and cares for his students. Today in class he said, ‘If you need help and you are willing to put in your end's worth, then I will do the same for you. I am going to be available when you need help.'"

Okdie regularly supervises undergraduates in his research lab and has overseen many senior thesis projects. “This is often a thankless endeavor,” writes a colleague, “but he embraces the opportunity to mentor these students.” Okdie’s students have gone on to present their research at the Newark Campus Undergraduate Student Research Forum, the Denman Research Forum and the Midwestern Psychological Association. Others have won travel grants to attend conferences and have had the opportunity to co-author publications with Okdie. In 2012, Okdie received the campus’s Best New Undergraduate Research Mentor Award for these activities.

Okdie earned his PhD from the University of Alabama.

Nominations                    Previous Winners