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UW System top teaching award goes to Dr. Jerry Hoepner

| Julie Poquette

Colleagues and students say Dr. Jerry Hoepner, associate professor of communication sciences and disorders at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, has a contagious enthusiasm for facilitating learning that has a lasting impact on students, educators and clinicians in his field — an impact felt on campus, in the local community and beyond.

For his excellence in teaching and his success in helping students become lifelong learners, Hoepner has been named a recipient of the 2020 UW System Regents Teaching Excellence Award. Each year two UW System faculty or academic staff members and one academic department or program receive the award, which recognizes exceptional commitment to and effectiveness in teaching. Each recipient is awarded $7,500.

This is the third consecutive year that a UW-Eau Claire recipient has been selected for the award. The university’s department of communication sciences and disorders (Hoepner’s own department) received the honor in 2019; Dr. Martina Lindseth, professor of German in UW-Eau Claire’s languages department, was a 2018 recipient.

“Dr. Hoepner is a highly reflective educator, which helps make him an excellent teacher,” said Dr. Patricia A. Kleine, UW-Eau Claire provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. “He is dedicated to creating transformative learning experiences for all students in his courses, in his research mentoring and in clinical settings. Dr. Hoepner has a lasting impact on all those he encounters.”

Dr. Vicki Samelson, professor and chair of the communication sciences and disorders department, said Hoepner applies best practices for teaching and learning in every context where he interacts with students, people with communication disorders and their families, and colleagues.

“Dr. Hoepner infuses his enthusiasm for the teaching-learning process, his passion for facilitating learning and his investment in evidence-based pedagogy into every aspect of his interactions with students and faculty — within the department, across campus, and in national and international venues,” Samelson said.

Hoepner’s colleagues cited examples of the many ways he demonstrates excellence in teaching:

  • By successfully incorporating active learning into every class period — for example, by using a modified flipped classroom model he calls the “sandwich approach” and by using course-embedded clinical experiences in which students work with clients with aphasia or brain injuries as they are learning about therapy techniques in their courses.
  • By his significant contributions as a mentor in his department’s instructional internship program, through which undergraduate students have the opportunity to be a part of the teaching team for courses they have already completed. Hoepner’s instructional interns perform at high levels, colleagues said.
  • By the apprenticeship model he uses in mentoring students on research projects, in which he treats student researchers as true collaborators from day one.
  • By his ability to identify students who may be marginal academically and provide them with experiences that change them as learners.
  • By his leadership in a department initiative to develop a program of scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), which has resulted in a large number of SoTL research studies and professional development presentations that have shaped the teaching culture in the department and positively impacted the recruitment, retention and high performance of UW-Eau Claire communication sciences and disorders undergraduate majors and graduate students.

Hoepner said his experiences as a clinician have been an important influence as he has developed his philosophy of teaching and learning as a professor. As a clinician, he taught clients to relearn how to swallow, communicate, self-regulate, remember and re-engage in personally relevant activities. He taught clients’ families about the effects of strokes, traumatic brain injuries, dementias and a variety of diseases.

“In those clinical moments, I learned that everyone learns differently, is motivated by different things, values different things and has unique timing for learning readiness, as well as the importance of environments for learning,” Hoepner said. “Above all, I learned that making assumptions about learning and setting artificial limits on potential is problematic. Those missteps risk compromising learning and disenfranchising the learners. I consider each of those clients and family members the experts and have learned as much from them as they have from me.”

Hoepner said his selection for the Regents Excellence in Teaching Award is a testament to the supportive environment in UW-Eau Claire’s communication sciences and disorders department and across the university for fostering innovative teaching methods.

“Many of my colleagues in communication sciences and disorders could be selected and would be equally worthy of this award,” Hoepner said. “I’m just fortunate to be surrounded by great colleagues in the department and at UW Eau Claire. This award simply buoys my spirit and dedication to teaching in a way that supports all learners. Thank you to the University of Wisconsin System Regents for their recognition and ongoing support for teaching.”

Photo caption: Dr. Jerry Hoepner, UW-Eau Claire associate professor of communication sciences and disorders, has been named a recipient of the 2020 UW System Regents Teaching Excellence Award.