Grace Lillard wins first annual English Department Graduate Student Teaching Award, Tom Sawyer Honorable Mention

The English Department has instituted the first annual English Department Graduate Student Teaching Award. Selected by the graduate committee, it honors outstanding teaching done by our graduate students. This year, there is a winner and an honorable mention.

The first winner of the English Department Graduate Student Teacher Award is Grace Lillard.

Grace is an innovative and inspiring teacher. She has served in multiple classes, taught her own sections of Writing 1 and her own section of Intro to WGGS. Her evaluations were uniformly and enthusiastically positive. Students commented on her insightful feedback on their papers, the multiple handouts and worksheets she devised to help with writing, her mini-lectures, her ability to lead discussions, and her ongoing availability and approachability as an instructor. Several students remarked that she was the best they had; they couldn’t have asked for anyone better. The evaluations include testimonials about how Grace worked with a particular student to catch up after falling behind; or how Grace could recognize when students needed extra help and provided it; or how she made texts come alive. In short, as one student summed it up: “She’s great. That is all.” But that is not quite all, actually, because in addition to being great, Grace has been instrumental in building out our pedagogical expertise more generally. She co-founded and co-organized the Approaches to Literary Pedagogy Reading Group (ALPRG), which is the department’s ongoing working group on issues of literary pedagogy. We are all better teachers because of Grace. 

The honorable mention goes to Tom Sawyer.

Tom Sawyer taught sections of Writing 1, and served in and co-taught several courses in English, including the survey course, courses in medieval literature, and an independent first-year seminar on “Imagining the Medieval in Modern Fantasy and Science Fiction.”  Those who have observed him teach—like Jessica Rosenfeld, David Lawton, Peter Monahan, and many others—all describe his teaching as talented, skillful, and engaging. One visiting parent who was a longtime AP high school English teacher actually wrote to Jessica afterward about how good a teacher Tom is: his rapport with students is evident and the whole class is engaged. He takes students seriously, and students respond. Students testified to become better writers, readers, and thinkers under his guidance. We are pleased to give his Honorable Mention to Tom Sawyer.