2 National Teaching Award Semifinalists Are From NC State

Memorial Belltower

Two of nine semifinalists for the Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching hail from NC State. Laura Bottomley and Hollylynne Lee were semifinalists for the national award, and Lee is now one of three finalists.

Bottomley is director of the Engineering Education and Women in Engineering programs and The Engineering Place in the College of Engineering, and Hollylynne Lee is a professor of mathematics and statistics education in the College of Education, senior faculty fellow at the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, and Director of the Hub for Innovation and Research in Statistics Education.

Hollylynne Lee
Hollylynne Lee

“We’re extremely proud of both Hollylynne and Laura’s achievements on the national level,” said Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Warwick Arden. “This is a reflection of not only their dedication to teaching excellence, but the overall quality of instruction at NC State.”

Lee and Bottomley were nominated through the collective efforts of their colleagues and students, who offered high praise for the two Cherry semifinalists. Their nomination for this prestigious award is one of a series of strategic efforts, under the direction of Senior Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs Katharine Stewart and the Director of External Faculty Awards and Recognition Maria Almanza, to identify and secure deserving recognition for NC State’s exceptional faculty on a national stage.

The Cherry Award

The program honors excellence in teaching, stimulates discussion about the value of teaching and encourages departments and higher education institutions to place high value on their teaching faculty. The estate of Robert Foster Cherry established the award at Baylor University in order to reflect Cherry’s appreciation for teachers who greatly impacted his life, and granted the first award in 1991.

The recipient of the Cherry Award will receive $250,000 and will teach in residence at Baylor University for a semester. Additionally, travel expenses and a furnished apartment will be provided for the recipient. Should Lee be named the winner of the Cherry Award, the Department of STEM Education in NC State’s College of Education will receive $25,000 to further support pedagogy.

“Excellent teaching involves designing and orchestrating learning opportunities, where a teacher uses an understanding of the disciplinary content, pedagogical strategies, their students’ understandings and dispositions and effective use of technology tools together to make instructional decisions,” said Lee. “Excellent teaching also needs to result in positive learning outcomes and fostering a joy for learning in a safe space for each and every student.”

Two Outstanding Teachers

Lee, who has taught at NC State since 2000, researches the teaching and learning of probability, statistics, and data science, incorporating technology use and designing technology environments that facilitate students’ and teachers’ learning. She situates her work in educational design in order to provide the best learning opportunities for students in K-12, her university students and educators around the world that engage with her in online professional learning.

In addition to being named a Cherry Award finalist, in April 2020, Hollylynne received the UNC Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching, presented annually to one faculty member at each of the 16 universities in the UNC System and the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics to recognize, reward and support good teaching. Also in 2020, Lee was named a Fellow of the American Statistical Association.

Laura Bottomley
Laura Bottomley

Bottomley joined NC State in 1997. She is responsible for the oversight of the Engineering Place and its strategic operations, runs the Women in Engineering program, advises students and teaches the E101 Introduction to Engineering and Problem-Solving class for first-year students. She is also charged with launching the new Engineering Education program joint between the Colleges of Engineering and Education.

Bottomley is a Fellow of the IEEE, a Fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education, a faculty advisor for the Society of Women Engineers at NC State, a member of the steering committee for the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) assessment in technological literacy. She previously received an individual Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring.

“NC State is a very unique university. As a Research I institution with incredible impact on the world stage, you might think that teaching was secondary. But it is not,” said Bottomley. “NC State is filled with faculty that care a great deal about their teaching and take seriously their responsibility to train the next generation including writers, designers, mathematicians, scientists, educators and engineers! We know that the problems faced by our world are too complex to be solved by any individual discipline, so we emphasize an interdisciplinary worldview. We also take seriously our land-grant mission to teach the students of North Carolina.”

Rave Reviews

The impact of both Bottomley and Lee on their colleagues, students and the university cannot be understated. Here is just a sampling of how others feel about these two treasured Cherry Award semifinalists.

“Dr. Bottomley has so much knowledge that you want to reach out and grab …. I often refer to her as Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus because she is intelligent, resourceful, loving and has jokes readily available. She has an extensive knowledge base of pedagogical practices that can be integrated into a wide-variety of class content areas.”

  • Whitney N. McCoy, Ph.D., NC State University Alumna ’20

“As Director of Women in Engineering, Director of the Engineering Place (K-12 outreach), an associate teaching professor, and an advisor, Dr. Bottomley’s main desire and drive is her care and concern for individuals. She is an educator who advocates, supports, motivates and serves all students but she has a specific skill of working with underrepresented students, staff and faculty. When her students succeed, she succeeds, but her pride is always in the students, their accomplishments, their actual learning, their excitement, their confidence in engineering and ultimately their confidence in their own determination and grit to succeed.”

  • Katherine C. Titus-Becker, Ph.D., Director, Women in Science and Engineering

“Dr. Lee regularly incorporates innovative and engaging teaching methods in her classes. She expertly utilizes digital tools to investigate statistical or mathematical problems (e.g., CODAP, Tuva, Desmos, GoAnimate) and to engage all students in class discussions (e.g., Padlet, Actively Learn, PollEverywhere). She also connects her teaching with her research. The Preparing to Teach Mathematics with Technology project, which has been funded by multiple grants from the National Science Foundation for which Dr. Lee has served as PI or Co-PI, has created and tested three instructional modules focused on preparing teachers to teach algebra, geometry and data analysis concepts. She was involved in developing, testing, researching and disseminating the curricular materials that have been used by over 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students in mathematics education across the country. Her reach as an instructor goes well beyond the bounds of our NC State campus.”

  • Karen F. Hollebrands, Interim Associate Dean for Research and Innovation, College of Education

“Hollylynne has continued to mentor me through my early faculty years as I learn to mentor my own Ph.D. students. Not only do I model my interactions with my students after her interactions with me, she is a sounding board whenever I need it. Recently, she helped me navigate working with a student that was not making adequate progress to their dissertation. Along with helping to mentor graduate students, Hollylynne has helped me develop a research trajectory, navigate and prepare for the tenure process, and identify and participate in nationally recognized professional service. Even though I have graduated NC State and she is no longer officially my teacher, I consider Hollylynne my lifelong teacher, mentor, teacher and friend.”

  • Jennifer N. Lovett, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Mathematics Education, Middle Tennessee State University

What’s Next

Soon, Lee will meet with faculty in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Baylor University, making plans for her visit to the campus in October 2021. There, she will teach a class and give presentations to the Baylor community, which will be recorded and posted at the Cherry award website. As part of her finalist duties, Lee will also present a Cherry Award lecture at NC State this fall. After all three finalists visit in October, the Cherry Committee will choose the awardee and make an official announcement in spring 2022. The selected awardee will spend a semester in residence at Baylor in fall 2022 or spring 2023.

“NC State does a great job at valuing, supporting and rewarding high-quality teaching and mentoring,” said Lee. “We have top notch faculty across the board who excel in the classroom — in person and online — and in their mentoring of students.” 

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