Teachers are the building blocks for the next generations, and instructors such as Ingrid Johnson and Megan Weaver are great examples of what defines outstanding academics in Virginia Tech’s Department of English.

Each year, the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences invites nominations for the Certificate of Teaching Excellence, which recognizes outstanding faculty members. Over the years, the department’s faculty has gained a reputation for receiving this award. For 2023, the college recognizes Johnson and Weaver as recipients of this certificate.

 “We have a long history of having award winning teachers,” said Kelly Pender, professor and interim chair of the department, “and it shows that we are continuing that tradition with sustained good teaching and that our reputation of having good teachers is well earned.”

Johnson, an advanced instructor and director of the Distinguished Alumni Board, teaches first-year writing.

“I enjoy working with young students as they begin to gravitate toward what interests and inspires them,” she said. “Our programs are structured in such a way to give freedom for that exploration, while offering solid foundations in critical thinking and writing skills that will help students succeed in their lives and careers.”

Her course goals emphasize the importance of teaching students the curriculum while also allowing their interests and creativity to guide them outside of the classroom. Johnson’s main priority as an instructor is knowing her students.

“Many students are in classes filled with hundreds of people and it is impossible for them to get to know their professors and vice versa,” she said. “The small class sizes in English allow for more personal interaction and facilitate greater collaboration. This, in turn, leads to stronger relationships, fruitful conversations, and more individualized instruction. Ultimately, this award is a reflection of how students feel about my time with them, and that is a true honor.”

Johnson graduated from Radford University in 2012 with a bachelor’s in English and went on to earn her master’s at Virginia Tech in 2014. She is a second-generation instructor in the department. Her father was on the faculty in the 1970s.

“I guess Virginia Tech English is in my blood,” she said.

Like Johnson, Weaver comes from a family of educators, with both her mother and grandmother serving as high school English teachers. While Weaver always thought about becoming an elementary or high school teacher, her mother always told her that she would be a college professor.

Weaver studied at Mars Hill College, where she discovered a love of linguistics during her junior year. She then obtained her master's in English with an emphasis in linguistics at the University of North Carolina Charlotte. Later, Weaver completed her doctorate at Old Dominion, focusing on pedagogy and classroom research. Throughout these many school years, she realized her mother was right — she had a craving for the university environment for learning.

At Virginia Tech, Weaver, a collegiate assistant professor and director of Graduate Teaching Assistant Education, teaches a variety of courses, some of which students are required to take. There are a few things she hopes students will remember her for, regardless of whether they are future engineers, scientists, business leaders, and more.

“I want to be remembered for cultivating and supporting students’ curiosities and skills for lifelong learning, and for being an empathetic teacher and mentor who teaches whole students,” she said. “Receiving this certificate is really special. Teaching is often a thankless job, no matter the level, and sometimes you wonder, is it worth it? Would I make more of an impact if I went into industry? Knowing that this award prioritizes nominations from students and my colleagues assures me that I am where I am supposed to be, doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Weaver wants to leave a long-term impression upon her students beyond what they learn in her classes.

 “As I continue to develop and revise my pedagogy, I maintain a commitment to not only fostering students’ writing and/or teaching skills, but also igniting their curiosity and excitement for lifelong learning,” she said.

By receiving the certificates, both Johnson and Weaver continue the tradition of defining what excellence means for teachers — going above and beyond for their students and thus their university.

Written by Harper Mugford, a professional and technical writing major