Georgia Tech has named Shana Kerr to receive the 2018 Class of 1940 W. Roane Beard Outstanding Teacher Award. An academic professional in the School of Biological Sciences, Kerr adds this award to two undergraduate advising honors she received in 2017 from Georgia Tech and from NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising.
Students are foremost for Kerr. From implementing student-centered teaching initiatives to mentoring students outside of class, Kerr demonstrates remarkable compassion for her students and passion for teaching.
Kerr aims to make every class she teaches to be as student-centered as possible, favoring interactive teaching over a lecture-only approach. She modifies class activities so that students engage with the course materials themselves instead of just passively listening.
Now in her sixth year of teaching at Georgia Tech, Kerr continues to adapt and use active learning strategies so that students don’t slip through the cracks, especially for big classes held in a lecture hall.
The main engagement strategy she uses for large classes is the “flipped” class. Students complete short readings, watch online videos, and take practice quizzes before class, and then during class, they work through activities and question sets in small teams to test and integrate their knowledge. For small classes, like Bioethics, she uses real-life case studies as the context and hook for discussing and applying course concepts.
Kerr’s education initiatives – for example, a project-based research experience for a laboratory course – have had career-changing impacts on students. Many students have switched their career focus from aspiring to be medical doctors to conducting scientific research because of Kerr’s influence.
Colleagues say that Kerr’s compassion when working tirelessly with students is what truly makes her stand out. When students aren’t performing to their potential, Kerr notices, and she takes action. She invites students to office hours, checks in with their academic advisors, and makes referrals to the Dean of Students when necessary. “She shows endless patience until students learn concepts to her satisfaction,” a colleague says.
“One of the most inspiring aspects of working with Georgia Tech students is their continual motivation to acquire new knowledge and make new mental connections,” Kerr says. “I aim to challenge my students and to provide the resources and scaffolding they need to meet and exceed these and future challenges. I’m humbled to be recognized for my teaching efforts by the Class of 1940 W. Roane Beard Outstanding Teacher Award.”