Dr. LeeAnn Kahlor wins annual Teaching Excellence Award

This year, Dr. LeeAnn Kahlor was awarded with the Moody College of Communication Teaching Excellence Award. She was chosen by a committee of past winners and will be presented the award at the graduation ceremony in December. According to last year’s winner, Brad Love, the recipient is chosen after a multi-step process, which includes faculty nominating their top choices, the top picks being evaluated by past winners, and then the dean of the college makes the final decision.

“We have really good professors in this college so when other professors who have won awards in the past come together and say you’re doing work that’s worth being honored, you feel really good,” said Dr. Kahlor regarding why she deems this an important award.

leeann kahlor

Dr. Love and other faculty members admire Kahlor’s positive attitude in and outside of the classroom. Her intelligence is accompanied with a unique spirit and enthusiasm that makes students and professors excited to be at UT.

“Her level of engagement with students and commitment to building them as people, scholars, and members of society is really special,” said Dr. Love. “The rest of us try to do that, but she pulls it off to a unique caliber. LeeAnn is living out so much of what we want to be as faculty.”

Dr. Kahlor has run an undergraduate research club for students who are interested in diving into the lessons she teaches everyday more in depth. One year, the students studied binge drinking and whether it has any significant relationship with the pressure of being at a top-ranked university.

“We designed a survey, we executed it several months later and the students were actually able to find a significant relationship between academic stress and binge drinking,” said Kahlor. “The students were able to present it to the American College of Public Health Association’s annual meeting alongside faculty members. They also presented also during UT Research Week. They were academic researchers. It was really cool.”

When asked what the most rewarding aspect of teaching UT students is, Kahlor said that her students are full of surprises.

“I often like to bring up topics that will make students think and challenge their comfort zone.  And what I love about UT students is that they are always willing to go there,” said Kahlor.

Kahlor spoke about a student that really reminded her why she is teaching the material she is. After showing a Frontline video called “Poor Kids” about the experiences of children in the U.S. that grow up in poverty, she was approached by a student. He showed upmost gratitude for showing college students something they needed to see. He told a personal story about how some of his family in Mexico are living in the level of poverty shown in the video and that UT students need to know it is a reality. Dr. Kahlor was quickly reminded how important her role is as a professor at UT.

If a student has ever taken any of Dr. Kahlor’s classes, they can attest to how engaging and comical she can be. She shared how this uniqueness is necessary for all teachers.

“The best advice that I could give to other professors or teachers or instructors is to learn what makes you unique because what makes you unique is what’s going to make you interesting to your students,” said Kahlor. “They will appreciate your quirkiness.”

Kahlor answered some more creative questions. When asked what her “hashtag” was, she told a sweet story about her 10-year-old daughter, Gigi, who runs around their house saying “#GigiSwag.”

“She didn’t even know she was giving us this golden nugget of Gigi-isms!” said Kahlor.

Lastly, Dr. Kahlor mentioned that the words she lives by are “I want to be remembered for doing good,” and she clearly embodies those words through the work she does each day with her students.  

Megan Ortwein