Ann Monroe, assistant dean and associate professor at the University of Mississippi School of Education, is the 2018 recipient of the Elsie M. Hood Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award, the highest honor a UM faculty member can receive for teaching.
Each year, the Hood Award honors one Ole Miss faculty member who represents the highest standard of teaching excellence and student engagement. Students and faculty submit letters of nomination and many award winners are nominated multiple times over years before being selected for the honor.
Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter presented the award Thursday evening at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts as part of the annual Honors Convocation.
“I am shocked and honored,” Monroe said. “I think that, to me, the most touching part of this award is the fact that the nominations came from students who took away something meaningful from their experience with me and had the willingness to take the time to share it. For me, that’s very special. I’m humbled that they would do that.”
During the ceremony, Vitter noted how Monroe’s professional accomplishments complement and inform her excellence in teaching.
“In reading her nomination letters, perhaps most impressive is how, through her example, she has shown her students the value of ‘paying it forward’ as a teacher,” he said. “She helps them see the rewards of teaching for their own merits, from the joy of being in the classroom to the value of engaging with students.”
An educator for more than 21 years, Monroe identifies herself as a third-grade teacher who is preparing future teachers for the classroom – a fact she is quick to point out to others. On the wall of her office in Guyton Hall, Monroe has framed photos of her third-grade classes from her first teaching job at Thrasher Elementary School in Signal Mountain, Tennessee, which she started in 1997.
Monroe still keeps up with a few of her first students – at least one has even crossed her path as an Ole Miss student. She estimates that she has taught more than 5,000 students in her career at both the elementary and college level.
“When I left my third-grade classroom, it was a bittersweet moment, but I had to do it to come here,” Monroe said. “I still miss the opportunity to be in a third-grade classroom sometimes, but working at the university level, I don’t just impact 25 students at a time. I get the chance to impact future teachers who go on to inspire thousands. For me, that’s awesome.”
Monroe’s teaching philosophy centers on building relationships, and, that’s exactly what she instills in her students at Ole Miss. In their nomination letters, Monroe’s students describe her as “passionate,” “dedicated” and “enthusiastic,” among other praises.
“Teaching is not a one-way relationship,” Monroe said. “There needs to be opportunities for back-and-forth because your students are not going to learn from you if they don’t know you.
“I try to be a model of what good teaching looks like for my students so they can embody that in their own classrooms. I’m not just teaching content, I am teaching how to become an effective teacher. So, without modeling that in my classroom, my message is empty.”
Claire Rearick, a 2017 graduate from Diamondhead, is one of Monroe’s former students who nominated her for the Hood Award.
“Dr. Monroe values teaching and teachers,” Rearick wrote. “She has an excitement about teaching that is infectious. For any student who goes through the School of Education, Dr. Monroe’s name will always be thrown around. Students walking through the halls will advise all of their friends to take (her class).”
Graduating English education major Gaby Vogt, of Metairie, Louisiana, also nominated her favorite professor for the award.
“Although Dr. Monroe’s class was at 8 a.m., I managed to never miss a class,” Vogt wrote. “Dr. Monroe teaches with such passion and enthusiasm that you want to be in every class. Sitting in her classroom is like watching a Broadway performance.
“The stories she shared about her experiences as a third-grade teacher are ones that I will never forget. I have already taken so much of what I have learned from her class with me into my classroom as a student teacher.”
Monroe moved to Oxford with her husband, Stephen Monroe, UM chair of writing and rhetoric, in 2001 for graduate school. She started at the School of Education as a master’s student and teaching assistant.
“Stephen received a fellowship to study Faulkner at Ole Miss and I wasn’t about to let him go alone,” she said. “When I arrived in Oxford, I met with Dr. Fannye Love, the associate dean (of education) at the time, and she offered me an assistantship on the spot because I already had four years of teaching experience. We knew after our first year in Oxford that we wanted to go all the way here.”
In her effort to “go all the way,” Monroe said that she tries to “never say no to an opportunity.” As a result, she has held a series of roles at the school including teaching assistant, graduate instructor, instructor, doctoral student, visiting assistant professor, assistant professor, associate professor and, most recently, assistant dean and director of assessment.
She has also received multiple honors at the school level, including: Outstanding Doctoral Student in Elementary Education (twice), the Outstanding Teacher Award, the Outstanding Student Service Award and others.
Science education major Carly Rock of Oxford is also one of Monroe’s students.
“(Dr. Monroe) is setting the ultimate example of what we, as future teachers, should strive to be when we are teaching in our own classrooms one day,” Rock wrote. “One way I look at this award is that all of the previous recipients are outstanding professors in their content area for so many reasons, but they all have one thing in common … they started out in a classroom being taught by a teacher who inspired them. Dr. Monroe is that teacher who inspires us to go into the classroom and change the world one student at a time.”
By Andrew M. Abernathy