Featured Teacher: Lori Meier
Lori Meier is the 2019 recipient of the University’s Distinguished Faculty Award for Teaching. This may be the most
prestigious but is not the first award Lori has won since she began teaching at ETSU
in 2008. She also been honored with Clemmer College Outstanding Faculty Teaching Award
(2015) and the Clemmer College Diversity Award (2018). So what does a day in the class
of such an innovative educator look like?
As a teacher who teaches teachers, Lori Meier knows the importance of engaging students
from the very beginning of their studies with her. Whether teaching online or on-ground,
authentic engagement begins with sharing her passion for teaching and learning. One
class that has always had a special place in her heart is Social Studies Education in Multicultural Society. Not only is the content central to her scholarly and civic concerns, she also finds
the class to be an ideal opportunity to model the kind of engaged pedagogy which is
central to her overall approach to teaching and learning. She believes classrooms
should be places of intellectual excitement where everyone is valued and their stories
honored, where curiosity is championed and teachers and students interactively learn
with and from each other. While engaging students in the scholarly knowledge base
of teaching elementary history, geography, political science, and economics Lori's
classes also spend a great deal of time discussing engaged pedagogies for elementary
Such a pedagogy involves sparking curiosity and encouraging autonomy in students.
“I feel really strongly that students need opportunities to explore what they are
interested in learning.” She has found that one of the best ways to get students interested
in their own learning is to embrace her inner nerd, follow her own curiosity and invite
them to come along for the ride. Along the way, they catch on and start finding out
where their personal interests lie and how they can tie these interests into their
own studies. “I’ve learned that when I’m enthusiastic about an idea or topic, that
my students will often follow alongside me with this contagious zeal too -- so that
has taught me that it is okay for me to be myself and to be ‘contagiously nerdy’ about
all things in the world.”
Engaging students also means getting to know them more personally and taking an interest
in what is happening in their lives inside and outside of the classroom. She does
a “morning meeting” check-in activity in which students report not just on their academic
progress but also personal insights and challenges they may have. While maintaining
standards and rigor, she has discovered that flexibility goes right along with autonomy.
This applies equally well to online classes where she encourages students to participate
in innovative and virtual classroom conversations using virtual FlipGrid video messaging
to more personally connect with students.
Beyond the care and attention she gives to them, perhaps what attracts so many students
to Lori’s classes is her critical perspective that education is and should be transformative.
With education in crisis in so many ways, Lori feels responsible to prepare students
for the difficult realities they will face as teachers, but she also encourages students
to imagine and consider the way schools should and could be rather than just the ways
that they currently are. “I often ask my students to consider the overall purposes
of schooling, debate what and whose knowledge is of most worth, and examine power
relationships in the American educational system.”
Lori’s scholarship also reflects and models the many modes of her engaged pedagogy.
For example, a recent paper presentation, Reclaiming Intellectual Work with Pre-service Elementary Educators through Curriculum
Studies, spoke specifically to the value of curriculum studies to undergraduate students
with examples from her own classroom. Several of her publications include co-authorship
with ETSU undergraduate students as she sought to teach them about scholarship in
education by working together through various teaching projects. Her wide-ranging
interests have also nearly led her out of this world as seen with her volunteer work
in partnership with the NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador group, which has proved to
be an ideal way to merge her love of space exploration with social studies.
Lori is also an innovator not just with pedagogy but also when it comes to other elements
of course design such as textbooks and materials. Among her many other awards, she
is also a recipient of the first round of OER Awards in which she is replacing costly textbooks with open and affordable materials. Not
only will this save money for her students, it goes right along with her notions of
open and engaged pedagogy because she can select readings and content more closely
related to the contours of the class as it evolves over the semester.
By Phil Smith
The Center for Teaching Excellence will feature a different faculty member each month.
If you'd like to nominate a teacher to be featured on the site, contact Phil Smith.
See past featured teachers here.