May 25, 2021 : By Office of Communications & Public Engagement
Liberty University has announced the 2020-21 winners of the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, an annual recognition of teachers who have promoted significant student learning evidenced by creative and innovative approaches to teaching, the effective use of instructional technology, and exceptional pedagogical skill. These awards are celebrated as the university’s most prestigious annual academic award.
The winners’ impact on students’ faith, thought, and character fully realize the vision of Liberty’s founder, Dr. Jerry Falwell, to train leaders in all discipline areas. The award process involves a formal peer nomination, dean support, faculty input, and student contribution. Winners are determined by the Selection Committee and affirmed by the residential and online Provosts.
Liberty’s Center for Teaching Excellence oversees the awards. Recipients were formally honored during Commencement.
“This year’s candidates represent the heart of Liberty’s mission of Training Champions for Christ,” said Dr. Shawn M. Bielicki, the center’s director. “They exemplify excellence in the classroom as they work wholeheartedly as if for the Lord (Col. 3:23). We are all proud of the difference they make every day in the lives of our most precious assets — our students.”
Assistant Professor of Linguistics, Spanish, and TESL Program Head; TESL Director, LU Spanish Institute
Department of Modern Languages, College of Arts and Sciences
Jared Barber’s courses feature student presentations, interactive discussions, and peer reviews, entrenching students in active learning. He teaches using a scaffolding approach by providing guiding questions to lead students to more systematically learn the course material. As a foreign language teacher, he prepares students for missions and culturally related situations in order to showcase Christ above all. Barber strives to reach every student’s needs, evidenced by him procuring a three-dimensional drawing pad and braille labeler so a blind student could follow along with syntax trees. “Barber genuinely cares for students,” Dean Dr. Roger Schultz said. “He emphasizes speaking truth (biblical values) in love and in a manner that is compassionate and Christ-like.” Barber is currently a doctoral student.
Travis V. Holt
Assistant Professor of English, Faculty Athletics Representative
Department of English, College of Arts and Sciences
Travis Holt’s style of teaching is both engaging and unique. He demonstrates an ability to maintain student focus and integrate technology through a variety of creative teaching strategies, including a version of “Family Feud,” an electronic version of “Battleship,” a peer review based on “Jenga,” and the use of illustrations to teach genres. Holt has been a model teacher and inspiration to other faculty this year. “Travis often shares personal stories, and he emphasizes that the goal of rhetoric is to pull people closer to God and create community,” Dean Dr. Roger Schultz said. Holt is a past recipient of the ILLUMINATE Grant for the Improvement of Teaching and Flamespy Professor of the Year, and he is currently a doctoral student.
Cara L.T. Murphy
Instructional Mentor, Instructor
John W. Rawlings School of Divinity
Cara Murphy is a passionate educator who abides by the principle of John 15 as her calling and strength. She is known as an innovative curriculum developer who revised and refined coursework, including adding “reflection assignments” to help students more deeply study passages of the New Testament. She incorporates content from her recent book, “The Inquisitive Christ,” into her classes to nudge students to seek truth and to develop a greater awareness of their co-missional role. She is a past graduate of Teaching with Technology Boot Camp, but stays present and doesn’t allow technology to replace her good teaching. “Her faith and understanding of Scripture influence and informs not only how she comes at developing course content but also how she engages the learner,” Online Dean Dr. Gabriel Etzel said. Murphy previously received a Faculty of the Year Award for the School of Divinity.
Linda M. Mintle
Professor and Chair, Behavioral Health; Director, Strategic Development for Clinical Affairs College of Osteopathic Medicine
Linda Mintle is an innovative and creative teacher who incorporates novel teaching and learning engagement strategies in group settings, including role-play, reflective observations, and metacognitive exercises. She developed and delivered a four-part series, “Managing Your Mind through Medical School: Practical Tools to Thrive.” She is passionate about the integration of Christian faith in learning and vocational practice. “Linda brings biblical principles and the expression of the life of Christ to bear in academic, professional, and personal pursuits,” said Dr. Joseph Johnson, interim dean. Mintle has written more than 20 books, sits on several national boards, and hosts a weekly radio show. She has previously been awarded an ILLUMINATE Grant for the Improvement of Teaching and the AACC Caregiver Award for Excellence, and she was appointed a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Center for Apologetics and Cultural Engagement.
Samuel J. Smith
Professor, Director of School Administration Program
School of Education
Samuel J. Smith is a skilled teacher, going far beyond the norm for instructors. He consistently creates academically rigorous experiences that transform students into excellent future Christian educators. He utilizes a learner-centered model of teaching by asking one simple question: “What is best for the learner?” If the answer requires more effort or a different approach, he runs to it. Smith offers additional virtual sessions for review or enhanced engagement to his EDUC 703 students at 7:03 p.m. called, “703 at 7:03.” “Dr. Smith has such a passion for teaching and he truly embodies the mission of Liberty University — Training Champions for Christ,” Dean Dr. Deanna Keith said. Smith is a past recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, among numerous other recognitions.