Photo of recipients of the Board of Regents 2024 Teaching Excellence Awards: The Board of Regents 2024 Teaching Excellence Award recipients (from left): Dr. Rebecca Stephens, UW-Stevens Point; Department Chair Amy Stevens accepting the program award on behalf of the Special Education Program, UW-Whitewater; and Dr. Donald Hones, UW Oshkosh. (Photo by Andy McNeill/UW-Platteville)

The Board of Regents 2024 Teaching Excellence Award recipients (from left): Dr. Rebecca Stephens, UW-Stevens Point; Department Chair Amy Stevens accepting the program award on behalf of the Special Education Program, UW-Whitewater; and Dr. Donald Hones, UW Oshkosh. (Photo by Andy McNeill/UW-Platteville)

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – The Board of Regents for the Universities of Wisconsin today presented its 32nd annual Teaching Excellence Awards. The awards recognize outstanding career achievements in teaching and are the Universities of Wisconsin’s highest recognition for members of their faculty and instructional academic staff.

“Exceptional teachers can have a transformational effect on their students, helping students imagine – and create – futures for themselves they previously may not have thought possible,” said Regent Cris Peterson, chair of the selection committee. “This is especially noteworthy this year as all our award recipients are teachers of future teachers.”

Each award recipient demonstrates an exceptional commitment to teaching and learning; uses effective teaching strategies to enhance student learning; and makes a significant impact on students’ intellectual development.

The 2024 recipients are:

  • Donald Hones, Professor, Department of Teaching and Learning, College of Education and Human Services, UW Oshkosh“What attracted me about teaching is that every day I get to go in and learn something, too,” said Donald Hones, who has spent the last 27 years teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) at UW Oshkosh.Though he came from a family of teachers, Hones said he never intended to become a teacher himself. He told Regents his journey to that career started in Spain where, as a young man, he taught English. “From the beginning, I realized I was in a place where students were sharing who they were individually but also about the place, their culture, their language. That was fascinating.”Hones has continued to engage with people of different experiences as the Fox Valley area has increasingly become a community with refugee resettlements, including immigrants from Hmong, Syria, Afghanistan, and different parts of Africa. “All these folks continue to bring their many challenges and traumas to get to the United States, but there’s also a lot of resourcefulness and knowledge that they bring,” he said. The opportunity for UWO students to engage with these communities is a great benefit, he added.Hones said is very grateful for his students, many of whom are first-generation college students. “Teaching is not an easy career to go into … but these students have a real interest in serving others.”
  • Rebecca Stephens, Professor of English and English Department Chair, UW-Stevens PointRebecca Stephens, who joined the English faculty at UW-Stevens Point in 1998, started her professional life as an accountant. While she was good at it, she didn’t enjoy it, Stephens said. She discovered another career path largely because she’s been a lifelong, avid reader.“Reading taught me how to consider multiple perspectives and how to look for different perspectives even when things look the same on the surface, whether it’s numbers or letters,” she said. That focus also guides her approach with students, encouraging them to engage with multiple perspectives and different experiences, especially when they’re different from their own.Stephens said English teachers like to choose texts that provide both windows and mirrors. The idea is for “students to see how commonalities with others can empower them to make larger connections with others in the world.” At the same time, exposure to differences “helps develop empathy and understanding, qualities needed more than ever in the world today,” she said.Stephens said she has benefited from administrators, colleagues, and “coming from a family whose houses are filled with books.” She added, “And of course, I couldn’t be a good teacher without the students … and their willingness to engage with different ideas. It gives me immense hope for all of our futures.”
  • Special Education Department, UW-Whitewater
    The Special Education Department at UW-Whitewater has prepared special educators for more than 50 years to respond to the changing needs of the field. The department—the only one of its kind in the university system—was designated in 1973 by the Board of Regents to provide services for students with disabilities. Its active-learning, high-impact practices include community-based learning, internships, international field experiences, student research, and writing.“Our program is at a special place and time. Something has happened in the last 10 years,” said department Chair Amy Stevens. “We just have a fantastic group of colleagues and work truly as a team. We’re forward thinking, we don’t wait to be told to do something, and we look to the field to see what teachers need.”“Our level of professional respect for each other and the synergy that comes with a commitment to working together helps us come up with these cool and different ideas and to be creative in problem-solving,” she said.Stevens said the Special Education Department “seeks to prepare professionals to be agents of change … to help individuals with disabilities and families.” Using evidence-based practices and drawing on innovative research in the field, Stevens noted that the department is also focused on developing professionals who actively work to improve their profession.

Others on the selection committee were Regent Mike Jones, Regent Jill Underly, and Regent Dana Wachs.

20th anniversary of undergraduate research event

The Universities of Wisconsin hosted its signature event, Research in the Rotunda, at the State Capitol in Madison last month. The event, which was marking its 20th anniversary, featured more than 150 undergraduate researchers from every UW university.

President Jay Rothman noted that undergraduate research projects are an excellent way for students to gain hands-on experience by identifying a challenge and then using innovative thinking along with data and problem-solving skills to find solutions.

“Furthermore, it gives our undergraduate researchers the kind of experience, knowledge, and skills that also will make our students sought after by employers,” Rothman said.

It is for these reasons that the Universities of Wisconsin are committed, as part of their strategic plan, to giving even more students the opportunity to participate in research experiences going forward, Rothman said.

 In other business, the Board of Regents:

  • Heard a resolution of appreciation for UW-Platteville hosting the April Board of Regents meeting;
  • Recognized the service of Morna Foy, president of the Wisconsin Technical College System for more than a decade, on her upcoming retirement;
  • Approved to continue the UWs’ test-optional admissions process in Regent Policy 7-3, “UW System Freshman Admissions Policy” through Summer 2027;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for a Bachelor of Science in Dairy and Food Animal Management;
  • Approved UW-Milwaukee’s request for a Master of Science in Connected Systems Engineering;
  • Approved UW-Stout’s request for a Master of Professional Studies (M.P.S.) in Design, Entrepreneurship, and Sustainability;
  • Approved UW-Stout’s request for a Bachelor of Science in Physics, a Bachelor of Science in Biology, and a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry;
  • Approved UW-Stout’s request for a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration;
  • Approved an agreement on behalf of UW-Stevens Point with Shorelight LLC, which provides services in support of the university’s efforts to increase international student enrollment;
  • Approved an agreement with Compass Group USA for all dining services operations at UW-Whitewater;
  • Approved UW-Stevens Point’s request for authority for the Friends of Schmeeckle Reserve to construct a storage garage on Schmeeckle Reserve and allow UW-Stevens Point to accept the gift-in-kind of the completed structure;
  • Approved UW-Milwaukee’s request for authority to sell a 0.22-acre parcel of land within improvements located at 2600 East Kenwood Boulevard, Milwaukee;
  • Approved UW System’s request for authority to construct various all agency maintenance and repair projects, including:
    • Two projects at UW-Milwaukee: the Klotsche Center Arena Bleacher Replacement and the Concrete Box Conduit & Utility Pit Replacement;
    • Two projects at UW-Stevens Point: the Trainer Natural Resources Cooling Tower No. 4 Renovation project and the Dreyfus University Center Laird Room Renovation;
    • At UW-Stout, the Central Heating Plant Chimney Repair project;
    • At UW-Madison, the Lakeshore Path Limnology Bypass project to improve the Lakeshore bicycle path around the Hasler Laboratory of Limnology;
    • At UW-Whitewater, the Steam & Condensate Utility Replacement project.

The Board of Regents for the Universities of Wisconsin will next meet on June 6-7, 2024, at UW-Milwaukee.