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Cohen-Vogel, Gibbs win School of Education Teaching Excellence Awards

Kara Hume, Dana Riger named finalists in inaugural recognition
Lora Cohen-Vogel and Brian Gibbs

Lora Cohen-Vogel and Brian Gibbs have been honored as the inaugural recipients of the School of Education Teaching Excellence Awards.

The awards, to be given annually, recognize faculty members who demonstrate expertise, creativity, and innovation in their classrooms; who make learning engaging, vibrant, and relevant to students; and whose work and accomplishments set a standard of excellence. The award winners received $1,000 each and will be recognized at a School of Education investiture and celebration of teaching and staff excellence event planned for Sept. 1.

Thirty-seven nominations were made by current and recently graduated students, with the honorees chosen by a committee of faculty led by Kathleen Brown. Nominations were from the 2020-2021 academic year, including the spring semester in which the University moved to remote learning due to the pandemic.

Faculty members Kara Hume and Dana Riger were named as finalists.

Dean Fouad Abd-El-Khalick instituted the awards to recognize exceptional teaching at the School of Education.

“All of our students benefit from taking classes with a corps of committed School of Education scholars who include teaching at the center of their work,” Abd-El-Khalick said. “I congratulate these honorees for this recognition. The comments made by their students made it clear that their work in the classroom is deeply appreciated by their students.

“This is the first year of our Teaching Excellence Awards. I look forward to the us being able to continue recognizing more of the great teaching occurring in our School,” Abd-El-Khalick said.

Lora Cohen-Vogel, the Frank A. Daniels, Jr. Distinguished Professor, was praised by nominators for her devotion to students, her expertise and enthusiasm.

“Dr. Cohen-Vogel’s teaching really stood out as exemplary during the pandemic,” wrote a nominator who was in Cohen-Vogel’s EDUC 876 “Issues in Education Policy and Research” course. “… She is an expert in the field, enthusiastic about the subject, and encouraged us to consider how concepts applied to the world outside of class in terms of educational policies, current events, or readings from other classes.

“She intentionally designed learning activities that promoted engagement, even in a remote learning environment, and created a respectful, understanding, and supportive class environment that fostered learning, excellence, and wellness during a challenging time for teaching and learning,” the nominator said.

Cohen-Vogel teaches primarily in the Ed.D. program in Educational Leadership and the Ph.D. strand in Policy, Leadership, and School Improvement. She also serves as the School’s director of interprofessional education and practice.

Her teaching and research focus on education policy and politics, teacher quality, continuous improvement research and bringing to scale programs and processes for system-level improvement and equity.

As associate director of the IES-funded National Center for Research and Development on Scaling Up Effective Schools, Cohen-Vogel helped lead research-practice partnerships that used the science of improvement to raise schooling outcomes for traditionally underserved students in two of the nation’s largest school districts.

Brian Gibbs is a clinical assistant professor who teaches in the Master of Arts in Teaching and educational leadership programs.

He was praised by student nominators for his kindness, thoughtfulness, passion and ability to make students feel valued.

One, who took Gibbs’s EDUC 533 “Social Justice in Education” course, wrote: “Dr. Gibbs is the most passionate, empathetic, and inspiring professor I’ve ever had. … He constantly pushed us to think deeply about how class material resonated with our own identities, experiences, and goals. He welcomed creativity with open arms by inviting us to write poems, short stories, or create visual art pieces in lieu of traditional essays for our writing assignments.

“With every story he shared about his own teaching and life experiences, Gibbs inspired me to pursue a career in education and to bring radical kindness and a passion for justice to everything I do.”

Gibbs’s work is informed from teaching social studies for 16 years in East Los Angeles before he pursued his Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction with a focus on social studies education and critical theory from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

His research agenda is aimed at developing deeper understandings of how educators support and encourage students to wrestle with difficult subjects, and how educators can establish classroom environments of learning and healing where students feel safe to explore, struggle to understand, and learn. He regularly gives presentations on the topics at educator workshops and conferences.

To be considered for the award, faculty members needed to have worked at the School for at least one academic year, taught undergraduate or graduate students, and demonstrated evidence of consistency of exemplary teaching.

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By Michael Hobbs