• Nation’s largest award for top teaching brings renowned prof from Maryland to Baylor

    Dr. Jennifer Cognard-Black laughing in Baylor's Armstrong Browning Library

    Every two years, Baylor’s Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching brings one of the nation’s best professors not already here at Baylor to Waco for a semester, allowing BU students to benefit from his or her excellence in the classroom. First awarded in 1991, the award remains our country’s largest national award presented by a college or university for exceptional teaching, and carries with it an exceptional monetary reward for both the professor and his or her school.

    The 2020 Cherry Award recipient is Dr. Jennifer Cognard-Black, professor of English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. This spring, Cognard-Black is serving as a Senior Fulbright Scholar in American Culture to the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands; she was also a Fulbright Scholar in Slovenia in 2012. She has served as Artist-in-Residence at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, among a host of career honors, and published multiple books on such subjects as women writers and the literatures of food.

    But perhaps most impressively, students at St. Mary’s have voted to award her the school’s highest honor for teaching three different times.

    “JCB is a type of professor I’ve honestly never had before,” one St. Mary’s student told the Washington Post — intimidating, because her standards were so high, but also so warm and supportive that students come to understand the expectations are a compliment, not a threat.

    Cognard-Black says she’s “over the moon” excited about the honor, in large part because of what the award means. “The Cherry Award makes teaching visible,” she says. “It says teaching matters. It reminds the nation that each and every one of us is indebted to those mentors. In whatever way — in a classroom, on a soccer field, in a garden, in a kitchen, in a garage — someone taught you something, and what they taught you changed you utterly.

    “Robert Frost said, ‘I am not a teacher, but an awakener.’ It’s good to be reminded that teaching awakens us. It wakes us up and really has the capacity to transform us.”

    Sic ’em, Dr. Cognard-Black!

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