TLTE's Lopez receives Swanson Award for teaching excellence

Bill Lopez

TLTE's Lopez receives Swanson Award for teaching excellence

20 Apr 2016    

The College of Education and Human Sciences (CEHS) at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) has selected William Lopez, professor of practice in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education, as the 2016 recipient of the Donald R. & Mary Lee Swanson Award for Teaching Excellence. He was recognized at a campus luncheon in his honor April 18 and will also be honored at the CEHS Awards Ceremony April 22 and the UNL Honor’s Convocation Sunday, April 23 at the Lied Center.

The central focus of the Swanson Award is the positive impact of teaching excellence on students. Award recipients must demonstrate that their teaching promotes thinking, encourages engaged, active and continuous learning, and holds high standards for student performance. They must also provide evidence that they are working to improve their own teaching, including research and scholarly activity.

Lopez taught middle school social studies in Ft. Lupton, Colorado for 23 years. Lessons he learned teaching students who were primarily Hispanic and Spanish-speaking helped shape a career-long philosophy of teaching that is focused on relationships and engaging students.

“I learned right away that knowing and delivering subject content was meaningless unless relationships were built between the students and myself, between the students themselves, and between the students and the social studies content I was supposed to teach them,” said Lopez. He says relationships are the “lynchpin” of his teaching today and forms the basis of everything he does in the classroom.

“He always pushed engagement with students and the importance of having positive setting where all students felt comfortable within the classroom,” said former student Matt Flores, an 8th grade math teacher at Shawnee Height Middle School in Topeka, KS. “I remember Dr. Lopez telling us that a loud classroom was not a bad thing. To this day, I still do not set my classroom up in rows and I am not afraid to push my students to be active learners and engage in their education.”

“Dr. Lopez does not run your typical social studies class where you may read a selection and write a paper on what you have read,” added CEHS student Alisha Thompson. “He challenges our thinking to a higher level, with more of the engaging activities, knowing the take away that we will have will be greater.”

At UNL, he has been a faculty member in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education since 1994 where he is also known for his creative and effective use of technology.

“Our use of technology in class has given me a great appreciation for the need to include technology in our elementary classrooms,” says student Elaine Chapman. “He has created his own
i-books for our class. It has been fascinating to see these textbooks that are tailored to our class and that contain a variety of topics that could not be found in one textbook. He has links to many websites that will be beneficial for us as we begin teaching social studies.”

A trademark social studies project Lopez created involved his graduate students researching the history of notable individuals buried at Lincoln’s Wyuka cemetery. Those history assignments were posted online and made accessible at the cemetery through the use of QR codes. The size of a small sticky note, the codes are secured to the gravestones of the individuals researched. A free smartphone app can read the QR codes taking the user to the website for the student produced history of the deceased. Students learn and experience high-level historical research methods finding themselves searching archives at the Nebraska Historical Society and using internet sources to find details on their subject.

“I was amazed at all of the resources available right at our fingertips,” said Thompson. “It was here I had the privilege of seeing and touching history firsthand!”

College of Education and Human Sciences
Teaching, Learning & Teacher Education