Cato College of Education professor Heather Coffey has been selected by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors for a 2021 Award for Excellence in Teaching. Established by the board in 1993 to highlight the importance of teaching, the awards recognize the extraordinary contributions of faculty members across the UNC System.
Coffey is a professor in the Department of Middle, Secondary and K-12 Education and a mentor to future teachers. She encourages a social justice mindset and gets to know her students so they are comfortable sharing concerns about teaching in environments that do not mirror their own experiences.
“The crux of my teaching philosophy requires that I create a classroom space where students feel that they are heard and respected and are able to share their honest opinions and questions without being judged or criticized,” Coffey said. “Supporting the needs of pre-service and practicing teachers of diverse students has not only become my job, it has become my passion. I feel an immense sense of responsibility both to the teacher candidates with whom I work and to the P-12 students they will eventually teach.”
Coffey helped develop the interdisciplinary Civic Minor in Urban Youth and Communities as well as the University’s plan to help undergraduate students thrive, Prospect for Success. A former middle and high school educator, Coffey designed and directs the new model for the Teaching Fellows program and is the director of the UNC Charlotte Writing Project, part of the National Writing Project.
“Dr. Coffey was an amazing mentor who I could go to for anything. She inspired me to challenge myself and influence my students,” said Rachel Jeska, a senior studying middle grades education.