The Excellence in Teaching Award was established in October 1985 by the State Board of Community Colleges to provide recognition for full-time teachers who exemplify the highest standards of instruction and professionalism in the classroom and who consistently demonstrate excellence in service to their colleges and communities. One nominee is eligible from each college. The award recipient receives $8,000 and a plaque. The foundation of the institution where the recipient is employed receives a donation of $2,000.
This year's winner is Stephanie Tolliver Osborne from Gaston College. As an English instructor and writing center director, Stephanie Osborne would tell you the highest compliment she ever received from a student came from an anonymous evaluation form, on which the student wrote that Ms. Osborne was the most human instructor she ever had, and the reason she chose to stay at Gaston College after spending a semester debating whether or not she should quit pursuing higher education.
On the first day of class, Ms. Osborne learns all her students' names and programs of study. She dialogues with students about their families, jobs, creative projects and outside interests so they know she is genuinely interested in who they are as people, not just as students. Ms. Osborne's classroom environment is full of personality, productivity, and passion. Students feel at home in her classes, and her retention rate regularly exceeds 80 percent. Her effective teaching extends to distance learning as well. She uses software to record virtual lectures and generate videos of essay markups. This method works especially well for online and hybrid classes, since it allows students to see her interact with content in documents.
Ms. Osborne also takes her role as academic advisor seriously, and enjoys serving as a mentor for students who wish to pursue English composition or literature beyond the associate degree. Ms. Osborne refers students to campus services and also serves as a liaison between four-year institutions. Former students pursue master's degrees in English, and have been inspired to write poems and short stories accepted for publication in magazines, journals, and online anthologies.
Since arriving at Gaston College, Ms. Osborne has delivered professional development workshops on creating online learning communities, improving productivity in online grading, revising writing prompts and rubrics to effectively measure achievement of student learning outcomes, and holistic grading. Her prior experience, managing a corporate learning center and teaching developmental courses, prepared her for the challenges of working with students who do not have the motivation or support systems of more successful students.
Ms. Osborne led the college's creation of a writing center, and a monthly poetry reading organized by student volunteers called Poetry Viva Voce. She also initiated the process to publish a campus literary magazine titled Weavings & Unravelings: A Literary Review. This name pays homage to Gaston and Lincoln counties' history of textile production, which still impacts the economy and culture of the region. The publication is open to students and employees to submit creative written and artistic pieces.