Elizabeth Davis

2008 Award for Excellence in Teaching

"Good teacher, but get a new purse," Elizabeth Davis recalls a student writing on a course evaluation in her second year of teaching. That surprising comment began the process of “my students teaching me how to teach them,” she now recalls—encouraging her to see her students as individuals and reminding her that they would read and perhaps misread her based on their expectations of a college course and a college professor.

Davis earned her B.A. with a double major in English and Psychology and her M.S. in Journalism from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, worked as a journalist, then earned a Ph.D. in English from the University of Ottawa.

Since 1981, Davis has served as a Lecturer in the English Department and the University Writing Program. She has taught an extraordinarily wide range of expository writing courses, from Subject A and first year composition through a variety of advanced writing courses, including journalism, writing in education, sociology, and environmental sciences. She has also taught courses in creative writing, fiction and non-fiction, as well as courses on British literature, the English novel, and the literature of California.

Across this range of courses, her students have given her rave reviews. Rather than teaching them to “conform to a boring, prescribed format,” they say, she fosters creativity and cultivates each student’s individual writing style. She instills confidence and encourages students to find their own voices, but also teaches them an awareness of audience. Students praise her for being enthusiastic, even passionate, about writing, for inspiring them to participate in class discussions and to enjoy writing, and for being approachable, warm, and genuinely concerned. They appreciate her openness to differing opinions in discussions and her honest yet constructive comments on their writing.

For three years, she served as the Assistant Director of Composition – Lower Division, teaching courses in pedagogy and supervising and mentoring graduate student instructors teaching first year writing courses. Graduate students describe her as a supportive mentor and a master teacher, who models effective teaching strategies and a positive, supportive approach conducive to student learning. When co-teaching with beginning teachers, Davis treated them as equals, involved them in all aspects of planning, assignment design, teaching, and grading, and provided immediate and thoughtful feedback, balancing encouragement and suggestions for improvement. Numerous colleagues also praise her for teaching them about teaching, generously sharing her materials and strategies for teaching specific courses, and advising them in difficult situations.

Davis has also published a range of her own writing, including essays, poetry, short stories, literary analyses, journalism, and book reviews.

Congratulations, Elizabeth!

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