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Past Winners of the Teacher of the Week

Jennifer Lawrence


The Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research (CIDER) recognizes Jennifer Lawrence, advanced instructor of English, for her vibrant, multi-modal teaching of composition, for her technological innovation, and for her pedagogical reach as Coordinator of the university’s thriving Writing Center.

Jennifer typically teaches three kinds of courses: composition (taken by first-year students), an ePortfolio development course (taken by sophomores), and a Writing Center Theory and Practice course (taken by advanced students from all majors preparing to tutor in the Writing Center). I will provide a brief paragraph about her methods in each. My observations are based on reading all of Jennifer’s teaching evaluations over a period of seven years, in my role as Associate Chair (through July 2011)..

In the composition courses, Jenny provides a challenging, but genuinely enjoyable environment that mixes traditional and innovative assignments and incorporates visual as well as written text. A helpful and supportive guide in her students’ educational journey, Jenny offers constructive feedback and brings her classes together into communities of active learners. Students reported gains in analytical skill, audience awareness, reflection, and overall writing style.

In the ePortfolio development courses, Jenny successfully teaches students the value of the ePortfolio—as a gateway to enhanced technology skills, as a space for reflection and planning, and as a showcase for outstanding work. Jenny’s evident excitement about the ePortfolio project and her way of communicating interest in student work seemed to generate an exceptionally high level of creativity and engagement among her students. Jennifer was part of the group that won the 2011 XCaliber Award for Creative Use of Technologies in a Large-Scale project, and she led the summer faculty group that revised the faculty-written textbook for the course.

In the Writing Center Theory and Practice course, Jennifer helped her students understand clearly the mission of the Writing Center, which some had thought of narrowly as an editorial “fix-it” shop. In the process, students learned a great deal about how individuals variously approach the writing process and the kinds of obstacles to success they can encounter. In researching theories of writing instruction and tutoring, students became more aware of themselves as writers and more conscious of the choices they were making for different audiences. They appreciated Jenny’s mentoring of their work, and several enjoyed their first significant successes as published authors or conference presenters through her strong and generous sponsorship.

Comments from students:
[Most beneficial was] The personal touch that Ms. Lawrence adds to the class and she really is supportive in her constructive criticism.

The discussions have been the most beneficial for me because I like getting other’s points of views on things. It helps me to see things in a different way as well as bringing up points that I would not have thought of myself.

My overall writing style has improved in a way that is both professional and creative.

Jennifer Lawrence is an amazing teacher. The class was so much more than a requirement to me.

I will take these theories and this knowledge with me through my undergrad career, grad school, and my career as a high school English teacher. This course is such a rewarding experience.

After only a semester, I feel like I’ve learned a year’s worth of writing-teaching experience.

Comments from Diana George: Director of the Writing Center
I might have run out of superlatives to talk about the work Jenny Lawrence does in the Writing Center. Without her, the place would not be/was not at all the same. She has shepherded several undergraduate Writing Coaches to national conferences where they delivered papers. And, she has encouraged and overseen their work as they submitted it to journals. Several have been published in Praxis and in Writing Lab Newsletter.

The Center has a life that is vibrant, welcoming, and intellectually alive. That is all because of Jenny who fills in hours when we don't have enough money to pay for enough tutors to cover all hours. She takes on extra work -- for example, with a group of international grad students who asked her to take them on as a writing and discussion group.

She rarely flinches. Would the world were populated with Jenny Lawrences!

Comments from Nancy Metz (Associate Chair through May 2010):
Jenny has been an inspirational colleague for me over many years now. Her curiosity, creativity, and thorough engagement make her the ideal teacher, administrator, and collaborator. I wish especially to highlight this year her vital contributions to the ePortfolio project, which won the university’s XCaliber award for 2011. It’s been a complex project that has benefited enormously from the Jenny Lawrence brand of optimism, pragmatism, clever problem-solving, hard work, sense of humor, and vision. As I look beyond my own leadership role in the ePortfolio project—and in the Undergraduate Program in general—I feel enormously reassured by the continuing involvement of colleagues like Jenny.


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