Campus Life

Provost Announces Academic Professional Track Teaching Awards

The inaugural award honor exceptional classroom teaching that fosters meaningful learning experiences.
By Katie Seabolt, Office of Provost Communications February 14, 2020

Aerial view of the campus of Texas A&M University. (Texas A&M Marketing & Communications)
Aerial view of the campus of Texas A&M University.

Texas A&M Marketing & Communications

The Texas A&M Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) will honor 10 outstanding Academic Professional Track (APT) faculty members this month with the inaugural Provost Academic Professional Track Teaching Excellence Awards. The new award encourages, recognizes and rewards faculty recipients for exceptional teaching practices that create meaningful learning experiences for students. It illustrates both the impact of an effective teaching approach and the value of student-centered learning. Recipients of this award will receive a $5,000 cash stipend, generously gifted by the Marie M. and James H. Galloway Foundation, and will hold this award title for life.

Recipients of the 2020 Provost Academic Professional Track Teaching Excellence Awards include:

Glenda Elkins Byrns
Glenda Elkins Byrns is a clinical professor and associate department head for Academic Affairs in the Department of Educational Psychology, College of Education and Human Development.

“Dr. Byrns not only invested in me as a learner, but she took time to invest in me as a future educator and as a person. She made me feel seen and known and cared for while I was in undergraduate school,” said a former student. “I spent every day in her class so intrigued by the seemingly endless ways to help low readers bridge that gap.”

Byrns’ influence as an educator also extends to her colleagues, as one of them described: “She believes learning should be fun and exciting. Walking by a classroom where she is teaching, you will hear voices engaged in discussion and laughter.”

Diane Chico
Diane Chico is an instructional professor in the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics, College of Medicine.

“Her availability to me was never restricted; whether it was late evening review sessions in the anatomy lab or early mornings in her office going over histology slides, she always made time out of her busy schedule to help me succeed,” said a former student and current mentee. “She always communicated effectively in a nonjudgmental and empathetic manner, which created a comfortable atmosphere that was conducive to my learning.”

Another student praised Chico’s teaching style, saying, “Her dedication to student achievement is outstanding. She makes herself widely available, and I personally know peers that prefer to come to her due to her judgment-free approach and encouraging personality.”

Kathrin A. Dunlap
Kathrin A. Dunlap is an instructional associate professor and associate department head for Academic Programs in the Department of Animal Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“Dr. Dunlap is one of the greatest teachers I have ever been exposed to in my college career,” said a former student and current mentee of Dunlap. “She knows all of her students by name, and you can tell that she truly cares about them… she stimulates enthusiasm for learning in her students. You cannot help but feel motivated after attending one of her lectures.”

A colleague praised Dunlap’s teaching practices, saying, “To say she is a well-rounded educator would be an understatement. There is no doubt in my mind that she will continue to be a key leader in our undergraduate educational program.”

Dr. Virginia Fajt
Dr. Virginia Fajt is a clinical professor in the Department of Veterinary Physiology and Pharmacology, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

“I respect and admire her and her work greatly, and I now value her expertise as both a colleague and a friend,” said a former student. “I received a wonderful education at Texas A&M, and Dr. Fajt remains one of my instructors of whom I was, and remain, most fond. I am a better veterinarian for having learned from her, and a better person for knowing her.”

Fajt’s nominator wrote, “The level of professionalism and educational expertise that Dr. Fajt brings to her teaching and leadership activities at Texas A&M University are extraordinary and carry over into every aspect of her professional life.”

Holly C. Gaede
Holly Gaede is an instructional professor in the Department of Chemistry, College of Science.

“When speaking with Dr. Gaede, there is always a sense that she strives for excellence in all that she does, but that she hasn’t lost sight of what’s most important in life. This makes her the most important role model among professors that I had while at Texas A&M,” said a former student of Gaede’s.

Another former student and former teaching assistant of Gaede’s expanded on the lasting impact that Gaede had on her life, saying, “Professor Holly Gaede exemplifies excellent teaching by pursuing student-focused approaches built upon the foundation of genuine care for her students. She has had an incredible impact on my own teaching journey, and I am forever indebted to her investment in my life.”

Amy Hodges
Amy Hodges is an instructional assistant professor of English in the Liberal Arts Program at Texas A&M University at Qatar (TAMUQ).

“Dr. Hodges has engaged our students through teaching of the highest caliber, and she has collaborated with many other faculty members to raise the standards of teaching and learning at this institution,” said Hodges’ nominator for this award. “What makes up a great institution is the people working for it, and Dr. Hodges’s excellence in all aspects contributes to creating a great institution.”

A former student commenting on Hodges’ role at TAMUQ said, “Simply put, she is one of the best professors I ever had.”

A colleague praised Hodges in her nomination letter, writing, “If all of this sounds too good to be true, I can understand your skepticism, but Dr. Amy Hodges is truly one in a million.”

Catharina Laporte
Catharina Laporte is an instructional associate professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Anthropology, College of Liberal Arts.

“Dr. Laporte exemplifies teaching excellence in many ways, including practicing student-centered teaching and service to the university through development of curriculum standards and mentorship of both students and fellow faculty,” said a former student. “There is no question that I am a better teacher because of her.”

A colleague described Laporte’s commitment to teaching excellence by saying, “I have met many great instructors over the years who are dedicated to their teaching, but I can unequivocally say that I have never met anyone with Catharina’s enthusiasm, excitement and commitment to teaching.”

Andrew Tag
Andrew Tag is an instructional assistant professor and director of Lower Division Instruction in the Department of Biology, College of Science.

“There are many excellent teachers at Texas A&M, and Dr. Tag is certainly among them,” wrote Tag’s nominator. “However, his ability to elevate an entire department is a rare gift. I am thankful to Dr. Tag for his tireless service and his commitment to teaching excellence. He is inspiring.”

A former student and current supplemental instructor for Tag described his approach to student-centered learning, saying, “His first concern is always how his students are understanding the material, not only what is being taught, but the importance of it, as well.”

A colleague added, “He is dedicated to integrating educational technology and pedagogical approaches to enhance our students’ educational success.”

Dr. Shannon Washburn
Dr. Shannon Washburn is a clinical associate professor in the Department of Veterinary Physiology and Pharmacology, College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

“Dr. Shannon Washburn is more than a teacher to me, and referring to her as such is somewhat of an insult. Indeed, she is an amazing teacher, but more importantly, she was there when I needed a friend and family,” a former student said about Washburn’s commitment to being more than an educator. Her former student continued, “Dr. Washburn is an advocate for the student, and my class will always be grateful for how hard she worked for us. She gave us everything she had to make us better veterinarians.”

A colleague of Washburn also commended her character, saying, “Her work ethic and commitment to excellence in education are unparalleled, in my view.”

Robert (Jay) S. Woodward, Jr.
Robert (Jay) Woodward is a clinical associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology, College of Education and Human Development.

“The connection Dr. Jay is able to create with students is unparalleled within the College of Education, and quite possibly, the university,” said a former student and current mentee of Woodward, endearingly known as “Dr. Jay” by many of his students.

“To say that Dr. Jay has profoundly impacted both my academic and personal life would be an understatement. I can confidently assert that my time at Texas A&M would have not been characterized with excellence if it were not for Dr. Jay.”

A colleague commented on Woodward’s adoption of principles of universal design for learning. In response to the inaugural cohort of Aggie ACHIEVE students, saying, “Jay sets an example of exemplary teaching with equity and inclusion in mind for all of his students.”

Media contact: Brandon Webb, 979-845-4016,

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