Two Curry School Faculty Win University Teaching Awards

Anne E. Bromley

Professor of Kinesiology Art Weltman and Assistant Professor of Curriculum, Instruction and Special Education Jennifer Pease were among 13 UVA faculty members honored this week with University-wide teaching awards.

Photos by Dan Addison, UVA Communications

Faculty members at the University of Virginia seek to inspire and challenge the next generation, no matter what the discipline. At the same time, most of their students come to class motivated to change the world for the better.

So how do professors help prepare students to find their paths forward?

UVA’s best teachers, recognized Wednesday at a dinner, strive to create “a positive environment for learning,” as kinesiology professor Arthur Weltman put it – classroom environments where students can connect with each other and feel comfortable enough to be wrong. Being accessible is key; professors keep their doors open to students, extending their influence beyond the classroom. They employ both “the art and science” of teaching, as neuroscientist Mary Kate Worden said.

Each year, deans, department chairs and colleagues take the opportunity to recognize excellent teachers through a set of awards, sponsored by the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost. Included in the nomination materials with testimonials from colleagues and students is each faculty member’s unique teaching statement. There, they detail some of their thoughts for nurturing the learning that will benefit students for the rest of their lives.

“Our teaching award winners provide a snapshot of the wonderful work that our distinguished faculty do every day in the classroom,” said Archie Holmes, vice provost for academic affairs and professor of electrical and computer engineering. “Through their efforts, they create and support classroom and learning environments which engage all students and help them fully develop their talents, discover their passion, and engage in self-discovery so that they are prepared for leadership in their professional and personal lives.”

Thirteen faculty winners – including Art Weltman and Jennifer Pease – were honored at Wednesday’s event, which also included a new group of award-winners recognized for their public service activity. Weltman and Pease share some words of wisdom below.

Cavaliers’ Distinguished Teaching Professorship: Arthur Weltman, Professor of Kinesiology

During his 34 years at UVA, Weltman has led the Curry School’s exercise physiology program; Curry School Dean Robert Pianta appointed him the founding chair of the new Department of Kinesiology in 2013. He has trained scientists in exercise intervention and influenced thousands of students. He has been recognized by the Seven Society and the Z Society for his passion and devotion to teaching at the University.

My classroom and mentoring philosophy is based on two tenets: challenge students to learn and achieve to the best of their abilities and provide a positive environment for learning. … I strive to provide a positive environment for learning by using a variety of teaching methods to impart knowledge, providing real-world examples relevant to material we are covering, and allowing students to experience the exercise physiology concepts firsthand. Students have commented that although the rigor and standards I set for courses I teach are high, they are appreciative of the fact that I find ways to get them to perform and learn at levels they didn’t anticipate being possible.

I am also committed to advising, as a considerable amount of learning occurs outside of the classroom. I currently advise about 75 undergraduate and graduate students. I helped to initiate both peer and alumni mentoring programs. … I continue to serve as a resource for students long after they graduate.

All-University Teaching Award: Jennifer Pease, Assistant Professor of Curriculum, Instruction and Special Education

There is no such thing as a “perfect” lesson – content, contexts and students are constantly changing, requiring me to continually reflect, adapt, improve. After more than two decades in classrooms across a range of different settings, I have cultivated and refined a set of deep-seated principles that inform and guide my work with students.

Relationships serve as the foundation for positive and productive learning. … By nurturing a positive classroom community in which students regularly interact with one another and actively engage with the content, I foster a space that allows for collaboration and intellectual risk-taking.

Challenge and rigor, coupled with support and feedback, foster deep engagement and lead to meaningful growth. Students in my teacher education courses complete large-scale, authentic assessments that mirror the daily work of teaching. … Breaking the tasks down into manageable chunks and providing appropriate timely instruction allows students to cultivate the skills and knowledge needed to take their next steps.

Throughout my teaching, I aim to incorporate research-based practices that promote learning, and I seek to make these practices transparent and evident for my students so they can begin to think about how to translate them in their own future teaching.

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