Submitted by Teresa Bergman
For serving as a powerful inspiration to both her students and her colleagues, Dr. Stacey Sowards received the 2013 WSCA Distinguished Teaching Award.
I would also like to express my gratitude to the members of the Distinguished Teaching Award Committee—Heather Canary, Belle Edson, Michelle Hammers and Mary McPherson—for their careful and conscientious consideration of the various nominees’ files and supporting materials. One of the committee members nicely captured the feeling all of us had about this year’s group of nominees when she wrote, “WOW!! I am overwhelmed with admiration and respect after reading these files. What a pleasure and privilege to be in the company of such skilled & committed professionals.”
We had eight stellar nominees for the award this year, and I want to thank everyone who participated in this nomination process for recognizing the outstanding teacher in your midst. After the committee reviewed all of the materials, I was surprised and pleased to see that we had one unanimous winner who received five first place rankings. Stacey Sowards has been teaching since 2001 and has won twelve teaching awards including the University of Texas Board of Regents Outstanding Teaching Award, and recently she received a $1.4 million grant from the United States Agency for International Development for the development of integrated research, teaching, and practice. Sowards’ work illustrates the definition of active and engaged teaching that is particularly attuned to her student population. One of her colleagues wrote that Sowards “opened doors for students that would likely have remained closed otherwise, and to say that she has impacted these students’ lives is an understatement of epic proportion.” One of Sowards’ students wrote that, “She has served as a role model for me as a scholar because through her own work she allowed me to see that my upbringing and culture are deserving of academic study.” One reference that the committee members saw repeatedly in Sowards’ work was how her students and colleagues recognized her strong commitment not just to teaching, but also to effective education. One student wrote that, “her commitment to teaching defies traditional categorization and, instead, completely redraws definitions of what constitutes effective education.” And a colleague from her department wrote that, “Not only her students, but her peers call her, one of the best, if not the best, classroom teacher they have ever encountered.”