The 2019 William L. Bucknall Excellence in Teaching Award

Mary Isbell, assistant professor in the English department.

Courtesy of University of New Haven Website

Mary Isbell, assistant professor in the English department.

Hannah Providence, Contributing Writer

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Mary Isbell, an assistant professor in the English department, was awarded the 2019 William L. Bucknall Excellence in Teaching Award last month.

“She is recognized by students for her consistent and creative uses of innovative high impact teaching programs,” said last year’s recipient, Matthew Schmidt, associate professor of political science and national security. “She also created an innovative, student run, writer-to-writer peer tutoring program.”

Isbell created the writer-to-writer peer tutoring program to use student talent to help other students.

“I sort of said, ‘Hey, we have these amazing students that can do really great things,'” Isbell said.
Megan Chetner, a senior majoring in forensic science and a third-year writing tutor, said, “it’s been fantastic [working with her]. I highly recommend anybody who would want to come to the writing center or work there as a tutor. I think it builds a cohort feeling with the group as we work together and through issues.”

All writing tutors meet with Isbell once a week in their 1-credit practicum class, where they discuss tutoring strategies.

At the event, Isbell was also honored for her effective teaching skills.

William L. Bucknall, the chair of the University’s Board of Governors and the creator of the award, said of Isbell: “I’ve had the opportunity to learn more about Dr. Isbell and her teaching approach. What resonates the most is her commitment to fueling a passion in her students. Even those who aren’t majoring in english … A student said, ‘Her assignments about history made old text feel as if it were new,'” Bucknall said.

Creating opportunity for her students to express what they are interested in is one of Isbell’s main goals.

“No matter what I’m teaching, I want my students to figure out how they can pursue their passions through the course material that I’m teaching them,” Isbell sad. “I create assignments where students see that I actually want to hear what they want to talk about and so, hopefully they leave trying to pursue something that they’re genuinely interested in.”

The William L. Bucknall Excellence in Teaching Award is a $25,000 award, of which $10,000 is used to support new teaching initiatives by the recipient. Isbell said, “I’m planning on inviting faculty members and students to propose projects on how to innovate courses in their field. So, I would like to have one faculty member and a student come up with a proposal defining how they want to transform a course and work with me over the next year to make it happen.”

Isbell said she plans to roll out this initiative shortly.