Conference picture

Past Winners of the Teacher of the Week

Brent Opell


The Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research (CIDER) recognizes Brent Opell, professor of Biological Sciences, for integrates active demonstrations, practical examples, and actual materials from his research and field experiences to create authentic and engaging classroom presentations.

Since joining the Virginia Tech faculty in 1978, Dr. Opell has taught more than 8,000 students, most of them in freshman and sophomore level courses. He has taught Principles of Biology as well as General Zoology, Invertebrate Zoology, and Evolution and Systematics. To support lectures Dr. Opell incorporates homework exercises, study guides, and review sessions in the courses he teaches.

Dr. Opell’s teaching contributions have been recognized by undergraduate teaching awards from the Department of Biological Sciences in 1994 and 2013, College of Science Certificates of Teaching Excellence in 1986, 2005, and 2014, and the university-level William E. Wine Award for Teaching Excellence in 2015. One student commented: “Your sense of humor, stories from your own research, and passion for your subject are truly inspiring.” Dr. Opell’s use of real-world examples from his personal travels clearly leaves a lasting impression with his students. One said, “I can honestly say that [his lectures] were very entertaining. Dr. Opell always brought in some sort of artifact to tie in with his lecture. … He was always willing to share any type of stories from his past trips around the world. I knew he enjoyed his career as both a researcher and professor.” Outside the classroom, Opell mentors undergraduate research students by involving them in his National Science Foundation sponsored studies of spider evolutionary biology. These include studies of adhesion in the capture threads of spider orb-webs, with students as coauthors on many of the published papers. One student, now a postdoctoral fellow engaged in medical research, wrote: “My current research is markedly different from what I studied with Dr. Opell as an undergraduate, but the respect for the scientific method and the desire to understand the unknown that I learned under the tutelage of Dr. Opell remains the same.”


( 727 )

Nominate a
Teacher of the Week

The goal of the Teacher of the Week program is to recognize effective, engaged, and dynamic teachers. Please consider nominating a teacher; the process is clear and concise (no dossiers; see nomination page).

View Past Winners

A list of the past winners is available.