UTEP’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers Established to Promote Academic Excellence

Each year for the past decade, The University of Texas System Board of Regents has recognized faculty members from The University of Texas System’s eight academic and six health institutions as recipients of the highly prestigious and competitive Regents Outstanding Teaching Awards (ROTA).

Since the awards’ inception, faculty members at The University of Texas at El Paso have claimed 70 of these coveted prizes, creating a distinguished group comprising various disciplines throughout the University who share exemplary performance in the classroom.

In recognition of the 10th anniversary of the ROTA, and in an effort to share awardees’ deep commitment to teaching with the campus community, UTEP’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers was founded in 2019. The academy’s primary purpose is to recognize, promote and support excellence in teaching at the University.

When founders of the UTEP academy — who include Beth Brunk-Chavez, Ph.D., dean of UTEP’s Extended University, and John Hadjimarcou, Ph.D., professor of marketing and chair of UTEP’s Department of Marketing and Management — approached UTEP President Diana Natalicio about the idea for the academy at the University, she was enthusiastic and fully supported all efforts to get it up and running on campus.

“I think President Natalicio feels UTEP has a lot to share when it comes to excellence in teaching for an institution like ours, and it is important to make known internally and externally that we have a community of teachers who can do great things,” Hadjimarcou said.

As is true of the UT System’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers, which recognizes outstanding educators across The University of Texas System academic institutions, the UTEP Academy’s goals are to recognize and reward outstanding educators for their exceptional contributions, foster and promote improved teaching and learning, education innovation, and educational discourse and initiatives.

“This Academy of Distinguished Teachers provides us with the opportunity to celebrate teaching excellence at UTEP,” Brunk-Chavez said. “We look forward to working with the best teachers across the UTEP campus to showcase and promote the innovative, engaging and otherwise extraordinary teaching practices that contribute to the success of our students.”

The academy’s members are comprised of UTEP’s previous ROTA recipients with the hope in the future to extend membership to other faculty members who have excelled in teaching at the state or national level. Current members will be charged with providing institutional leadership in teaching excellence at the University and advise the Provost and President on instructional matters, provide mentorship to UTEP faculty, sponsor teaching-related scholarship, and engage in initiatives that bring attention to and create a climate that values diversity in teaching innovation and discourse.

“In addition to recognizing the excellence in teaching on campus, it is important that the academy also provides an opportunity for members to share their expertise with others on campus,” said John Wiebe, Ph.D., UTEP’s interim provost. “By recognizing them, we set them up for a position of mentorship of others who would like to learn their successful methods of teaching.”

UTEP’s academy will be closely aligned with the University’s Center for Faculty Leadership and Development (CFLD). The academy will follow the center’s efforts to allow members to share their own experiences and expertise with the UTEP community through workshops and other forums on cutting-edge teaching and learning activities, methods and applications.

“Establishing this academy hopefully sends the message to our students and faculty on the value we place on good teaching at UTEP,” Wiebe said. “It also provides more opportunities for recognition of excellent teaching, which is important because if you only recognize two outstanding teachers a year as with the ROTA, it can be difficult for faculty to aspire to receive that award. If we are able to recognize more faculty I think it can incentivize faculty to document what they are doing in the classroom and work with colleagues toward that recognition or stature.”

The inaugural class will be officially inducted into the UTEP Academy of Distinguished Teachers during Honors Convocation on April 28. For more information on the academy, visit their website.

Author:  Christina Rodriguez – UTEP Communications