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Past Winners of the Teacher of the Week

Elizabeth (Betty) Fine


The Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research (CIDER) recognizes Elizabeth (Betty) Fine, professor of Religion and Culture, for more than thirty years of committed, careful, excellent classroom instruction, supplemented by a string of awards and several first-rate pedagogical publications related to oral traditions and Tech's expanding Appalachian Studies program.

Betty teaches students how stories work: a much more challenging—and exciting—task than laypeople might think. A specialist in speech, storytelling, and performance art, she has concentrated her teaching energies on the course Multicultural Communication, which combines anthropology with urban folklore, international studies, and personal interviewing techniques, on Appalachian Studies courses of several kinds. Her prize-winning book on soul-stepping (2003, reprinted 2007) isn't "pedagogical" in the simple sense, but it also embodies her enthusiasm for local traditions. A long-time member of the Humanities program, which later became the Center (and later, Department) of Interdisciplinary Studies, then of Religion and Culture, Betty has taught program and departmental majors as well as general students of all kinds. One of the founders of Tech's new Master's program in Material Culture and Public Humanities, she has also worked with the Department of Communication and at several other schools.

In working with cultural diversity issues, she encourages students to expand their understanding of cultures: those of others and of their own. She also encourages deep reading, calls for weekly written responses, involves her charges in classroom role-playing exercises, and helps them perform works from oral traditions of various kinds.

Years ago she was nominated for a CTE and for a Diggs Award. More recently, however, she won a CLAHS Diversity Award (2010-2011) and Tech's Outstanding Service-Learning Educator Award (1998-1999). Modest almost to a fault, she doesn't apply for awards very often. Yet, she deserves recognition for generally outstanding student SPOT scores and community involvement in a number of educational causes.

In addition to the awards identified above, Betty has published articles on performance and oral tradition in such peer-reviewed periodicals and books as Oral Tradition (2003), Teaching Oral Traditions(1998; John Foley as Ed), and Perspectives on Talk and Learning (1990; Susan Hynds and Don Rubin as Ed.). Her papers on teaching students how to work in communities with various kinds of residents, including the elderly, have been presented at several Appalachian Studies Conferences, the most recent in 2010.

In August 2013, one of Betty's students who graduated from Tech the previous May wrote her a thank you note: "Thank you. I really enjoyed your Appalachian Studies course . . . and was thankful to have a professor who cared as much as you do." Students in another class sent Betty a large thank-you card, on which each of them wrote messages of praise. One student, for example, said, "your class taught me to better understand myself so that I can better understand others. It taught me that 'different' certainly does not equal bad. . . . I hope to spend the rest of my life falling in love with the world, and more importantly, with the people in it." Finally, another student wrote, "I aspire to be like you someday. Once again, thank you so much. I will miss you!"


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