UVA Awards Outstanding Teachers, Citing Empathy, Technology and Collaboration

Anne Bromley

April Salerno, assistant professor in the School of Education and Human Development, was one of 9 professors honored with an All-University Teaching Award.

This is an excerpt from an article originally published by UVA Today.

The outstanding professors range from an assistant professor who created a card game that students play in biology classrooms around the world, to an associate professor who gives his students an assignment to write a “fabulous, funky or fresh” report analyzing issues, to an education professor who teaches a class speaking only Romanian, to let her teaching students know what it feels like for someone learning a new language.

This cohort of esteemed teachers, whose awards are administered by the UVA Provost’s Office, was honored at a reception this week. 

Among the many superlatives found in the awards nomination letters from students, fellow instructors, deans and other UVA community members, several themes recurred: how professors stressed empathy and ethics, showcased big data and advanced technology, and engaged learners, including with opportunities to collaborate.

April Salerno: All University Teaching Award

April Salerno teaches in the School of Education and Human Development’s online Master of Education-Curriculum & Instruction degree for working educational professionals. As an assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Special Education, she teaches high-quality online, asynchronous classes focused on how to instruct students whose first language is not English.

“Online instruction for me is a passion because I view it as a pathway to open access and to educational equity,” Salerno wrote in her teaching statement.

A departmental colleague wrote in a nomination letter that others in the education school sought out Salerno for her expertise.

“In the pandemic-induced shift to online teaching, many of us sought models for developing and delivering exemplary rigorous and relevant instruction that engages students. Quite fortunately, I have found such a model in my colleague, April Salerno, who I had the pleasure of observing this past fall. Well-versed in online teaching, Salerno skillfully crafts clear and organized courses that empower learners to engage with the content and one another in meaningful ways that foster professional growth.”

“My life’s work is to improve learning opportunities for linguistically diverse children and youth,” Salerno said, “so I do everything I possibly can to model for my students what it means to provide quality, inclusive instruction.”

That also includes designing original simulations of teachers and immigrant families, for example.

In the beginning of the semester, she teaches one session speaking only Romanian – to let her teaching students know what it feels like for someone learning a new language. That gives them “the opportunity to empathize and understand,” she said.