College of Education bestows distinguished teaching awards

Wes Scarborough

Jo Worthy, language and literacy studies professor, and Tasha Beretvas, associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Education, both received the College of Education Dean’s Distinguished Teaching Award, the college’s most prominent award, last week. 

Worthy, a former elementary and middle school teacher, specializes in children’s reading interests and bilingual education. She also focuses on the alternatives to ability grouping, which she said is the method of categorizing and sectioning young students based on expectancy of success in academics.

“Putting kids into these ability groups can be really harmful,” Worthy said. “If we’re not teaching them as a whole, then they don’t get the equal treatment that encourages success.”

Worthy said group categorizing students discourages them to break apart from the labels they are given. The most well-known categorization is to break up students into gifted and talented in middle school and regular or distinguished in high school.

According to Worthy, her method of teaching involves getting to know students on a personal level.

“It is important to me to know what the students need and especially what they’re interested in learning,” Worthy said.

Beth Maloch, associate dean of teacher education and chair of the award’s committee, said Worthy has designed and taught a signature undergraduate studies course, which has received exceptional course evaluations.

Beretvas teaches statistics and psychometrics in the Department of Educational Psychology. Her course, “Introduction to Statistics,” helps students understand how to apply statistics to their own respective fields.

“There are a lot of people coming in who are fearful of math,” Beretvas said. “When they’re shown in a way that they can grasp it, they can easily use [statistics] with their own interests.”

According to Maloch, the committee bases its decisions off student and faculty-peer evaluations for both graduate and undergraduate teaching.

“Research is important at a top-tier institution like UT,” Beretvas said. “But we also value teaching and seeing these awards really does substantiate that.”

Both Worthy and Beretvas have previously received honors, including the Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award.

“They’ve invested all across the college throughout the years,” Maloch said. “It’s a long way to say that it was not surprising that they were nominated.”