Graduate School 2021 Excellence in Teaching Award Recipients

The Excellence in Teaching Award was established by the Graduate School to recognize those students who have demonstrated superior teaching skills and have contributed to teaching beyond their own classroom responsibilities, making a significant contribution to the instructional mission of the University.

Ms. Lynn Abdouni

PhD candidate | College of Environment and Design

In her teaching, Ms. Abdouni focuses on the what and why to encourage her students to become independent, critical thinkers.  She works to create a framework which students can use not only to make sense of the information available to them but also as a space to share their own perspectives.  She believes in co-creation in the classroom, in which students “become knowledge-producing agents in the curriculum.”

Community building is a key aspect of Ms. Abdouni’s teaching practices.  She founded and leads the Lettus Collective in her college.  This is a project-based student movement with the purpose of challenging the current thinking about urban planning and landscape design, in addition to making connections between the community and the classroom. This group has also been i

Ms. Abdouni has been the instructor of record or teaching assistant for 5 different courses in the college, as well as participating in other UGA instructional initiatives, including SciREN and NASA Develop.


Ms. Christina Crespo

PhD student | Institute of Women’s Studies and Integrative Conservation and Anthropology

Ms. Crespo approaches teaching as an opportunity to use productive discomfort to help her students grow both intellectually and personally.  Collaboration and discussions are core strategies in her teaching, working to build a supportive classroom community in which students can explore difficult topics.  She believes her role in the classroom is to help students develop the tools and strategies to foster learning that address their unique interests, using materials that represent a diverse set of voices and experiences.

Ms. Crespo’s teaching and learning activities extend beyond the classroom.  One example is the development and growth of a conference on gender, the body, and fieldwork that provides space and voice for researchers to talk about what it means to conduct fieldwork as an embodied human being.

Ms. Crespo has been the instructor of record for an introductory-level Women’s Studies course and a teaching assistant for six other courses in both Women’s Studies and Anthropology.


Mr. Philip Gilreath

PhD candidate | English

Mr. Gilreath focuses on “transformative creativity” in teaching first-year writing students about the process of writing as well as the products they will be expected to create in their careers.  He believes that “linguistic flexibility” and persuasion are important skills to develop in writing.

He is one of the English department’s English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) specialists and has taught sections of the First-Year Writing course for international students, tailoring the standard curriculum for non-native speakers.  As the university moved to online instruction last year, Mr. Gilreath took the lead in developing a guide to online instruction for others teaching in the First Year Writing program.  He uses his teaching skills outside of UGA to work one-on-one with incarcerated students taking college-level courses on their writing projects.

Mr. Gilreath has been the instructor of record for multiple sections of two First-Year Writing courses and also for an upper-level literature course.


Ms. Rachel Perez Udell

PhD candidate | Plant Biology

Ms. Perez approaches teaching with the goals of students having a sense of belonging and sense of wonder for the world around them.  She believes in collaboration and peer instruction as strategies to engage students in their own learning.  Her teaching and own learning are guided by two key concepts: awareness of each person’s own psychological state and equity as it may affect an individual’s learning capabilities.

Ms. Perez was the instructor of record for an upper-level plant biology course, which is a rare opportunity for a graduate student in biology, which she transformed to an online course in spring 2020. She also serves as one of the two lead TAs/lab coordinators for the Introductory Botany Laboratory Course with multiple sections.

Ms. Perez is one of 9 graduate students to nationally to receive the 2021 K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award given by the American Association of Colleges and Universities.


Mr. Andrew Wiggins

PhD candidate | Microbiology

Mr. Wiggins approaches teaching by creating an environment where students can appreciate the wonders of science and develop their creativity. He values active learning strategies that incorporate real-world examples, build collaboration, and encourage social development.  He uses concept mapping and drawing to help students comprehend biological systems.  He designs assignments that allow students to use current technologies to achieve learning objectives in creative ways.  As he implements new strategies and tools in the classroom, such as Kahoot, he collects data to assess the effectiveness of the tools.

Mr. Wiggins is also active with the Peer Assistant program, providing guidance and mentorship in using Process-Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning exercises.

Mr. Wiggins has been a teaching assistant and instructor for four different courses in Microbiology, including serving as an instructor of record for MIBO 2500, transitioning to online in spring 2020, and for a section GRSC 7770, the required seminar to prepare new teaching assistants for their instructional responsibilities.

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