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Biology Faculty Member Wins Sears Helgoth Distinguished Teaching Award

Emily Holt 2021 Sears Helgoth Distinguished Teaching Award recipient

May 19, 2021

Emily HoltUniversity of Northern Colorado Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Emily Holt, Ph.D., has been selected as the recipient of the 2021 Sears Helgoth Distinguished Teaching Award.

The award, administered by UNC's College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, recognizes UNC's commitment to high-quality and innovative teaching along with the historical importance of the teaching mission at UNC by rewarding faculty members (tenured, tenure-track, contract renewable) who have made outstanding contributions to teaching and learning that result in the enhancement of the intellectual development and lives of students.

Holt completed her fifth year at UNC and teaches undergraduate courses in ecology and plant sciences as well as graduate courses in bioeducation. Her scholarly work investigates disturbance ecology of lichens and undergraduate student learning of biology. Her passion is blending her teaching and scholarship where she can rigorously explore pedagogical practices and student conceptions to better facilitate student learning in her classrooms.

"I strive to use best practices in teaching and learning that meet my students’ needs and course objectives," she wrote. "In practice, this looks like a noisy classroom or busy breakout rooms where my students actively collaborate to synthesize information using their own knowledge and outside resources, formulate predictions and create graphs based on real scientific data. They make choices about their learning, and they learn from one another.

"My goal is to provide opportunities to allow my students to succeed, which involves non-traditional assessments (e.g., authentic research, assessments that blend creativity and scientific rigor), ownership of their learning experience and an inclusive and welcoming learning environment. I strongly value reflection to improve my own teaching, learn more about my students, gain knowledge about current pedagogues and become a better learner myself. I am honored that my approaches are valued as 'outstanding' amongst my peers."

Prior to UNC, she was an assistant professor in the Biology Department at Utah Valley University for five years. During her time there, she emerged as a biology education researcher, which has kept her "current in best practices in STEM education and to be creative in [her] own curricular development."

Holt and her graduate teaching assistants built innovative assessments to meet these multi-faceted goals and have shared them with the larger bioeducation community. Below are two recent publications that they have published:

"While the pandemic has brought hardship and isolation to our entire community, I have hoped that education could be that bright spot in my students’ lives," she wrote. "I always strive, and even more so in the past three semesters, to create educational experiences that meet our academic objectives yet keep my student engaged and working with their peers."

Holt will receive a plaque and a monetary award.

About UNC's Sears Helgoth Distinguished Teaching Award

The award, supported by the generosity of Kathleen Sears and Jim Helgoth and administered by the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, is given annually to a faculty member who has demonstrated a record of excellence in instruction at UNC. Applications were reviewed and the awardee selected by a committee of assistant/associate deans, one from each academic college and previous award recipients.

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