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Last modified: Friday, February 25, 2005

Teresa L. Heinz

Lieber Memorial Teaching Associate Award -- Founders Day 2005

Doctoral Student in Communication and Culture
Indiana University Bloomington
B.A., Oberlin College, 1994
M.A., University of Missouri, 2000

Teresa Lynn Heinz would be the first to acknowledge the power of a good teacher.

In 2000, as a second-year doctoral student in the Department of Communication and Culture, Heinz was herself good, with higher than average ratings on her student evaluations and commendations for being "clear and respectful" in the classroom, as well as "friendly and outgoing," and for providing "awesome" feedback and leading "thorough and interesting discussions."

One year later, as students, colleagues, and mentors all agree, she had transformed herself into a great teacher.

The impetus came, naturally enough, from a teacher. Professor Jane Goodman, who was course director for the one of the classes Heinz was teaching, observed her in the classroom and offered what Heinz describes as an "honest" assessment of her performance.

In response, instead of settling for making a few cosmetic improvements, Heinz decided to dive into the pedagogical literature, seek advice from other teachers, and make herself into the excellent instructor she knew she could be.

Goodman was not the first teacher whose influence on Heinz proved life-changing. A first-generation college student who attended Oberlin College on an academic scholarship, Heinz credits an exceptional high school English teacher with recognizing both her passion and her potential for academic work. Honoring the importance of that support, Heinz has reached out in her own teaching to a diverse student population, working not only with first-year students and majors and minors in her own department, but also with first-generation IU students through the Groups Program and with older, nontraditional students at IUPUI.

Heinz is one of the first graduate students to earn the Department of Communication and Culture's Certificate of Pedagogy, and she has worked with new graduate teaching assistants as part of the department's Peer Mentoring Program. Her commitment to teaching has earned her a departmental teaching award and selection as a Future Faculty Teaching Fellow.

"I have been immensely impressed with Teresa's devotion to teaching, her deep commitment to her students, and her passion for pedagogy," says Professor Patricia Andrews, director of the Preparing Future Faculty Program.

Associate Professor Robert Terrill concurs. "Her classroom is a model. The students are highly interactive and engaged with the material, and I have received more positive comments from her students about her teaching methods than I have about all of my other AIs combined."

Typical student responses to Heinz as a teacher are that she is "amazing," "10 out of 10," and "the most helpful instructor I've had."

Students also appreciate the atmosphere of mutual respect that Heinz fosters in her classes, as well as the credibility her background as a practicing journalist gives her.

Before beginning the doctoral program in communication and culture at IU, Heinz worked for several newspapers and earned a master's degree in journalism. "I came to academia because I was frustrated with the lack of opportunities to discuss underlying social and political issues as a magazine and newspaper journalist," she says.

Heinz's academic path, like her pedagogical style, is deeply grounded in personal experience. Her research, which focuses on media representation of marginalized groups, particularly the homeless, is grounded in her own family's homelessness in the late 1980s. "When people in my hometown reacted negatively to our situation," she says, "I began to wonder why others are sometimes threatened by homelessness."

"I questioned why the mainstream media tends to stereotype the homeless in negative ways. As these interests developed, I became keen to understand how critical theory can help people counter the repressive ideologies that impact their lives."

Heinz, who uses her personal experiences in class to illustrate the concepts she is teaching, is committed to making connections: between her research and her teaching, between the "real world" and the academy, and, most of all, between herself and her students.