Ninety-eight percent of Americans believe that a good instructor can change a student’s life. As we close out the academic year, we’re celebrating faculty who have gone the extra mile to improve learning before, during and after class. Whether it was breaking financial barriers or putting themselves in the shoes of their students, this year’s Top Hat Educator Award recipients have drastically improved learning outcomes. Read on for the eye opening stories of our award recipients.

Most Innovative Educator Award

Affordability, interactivity and relevancy are so much more than buzzwords. We applaud the educators who use Top Hat in innovative ways to strike a balance between all three. While we were privileged to announce the following finalists for this award, Caitlin Shea-Vantine took home this prestigious honor.

  • Caitlin Shea-Vantine, Florida Atlantic University 
  • Amanda Haage, University of North Dakota 
  • Savita Arya, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Amber McEachern, East Carolina University

Shea-Vantine serves as Biology Laboratory Coordinator and oversees the lab experience for more than 1,500 students. It’s why she’s taken it upon herself to reduce barriers to learning where possible. Her colleagues are particularly in awe of her efforts to do so. “She’s been working on streamlining the cost to undergraduate students, making sure that students are not kept out of activities by the cost of a lab manual,” shares Dr. Sarah Milton, Professor and Chair of Biology at Florida Atlantic University. Hear how Shea-Vantine has tailored the structure of her curriculum to best serve students.

Student Impact Award

Connection comes in all forms: Connection to the material. Connection to peers. Connection to you. Our Student Impact Award honors the professor who has fostered a vibrant and inclusive learning community in and out of class. While we were privileged to announce three finalists for this award, Sravanti Kantheti came out on top.

  • Sravanti Kantheti, Lanier Technical College
  • Vanessa Arnaud, California State University, Sacramento 
  • Chernoh Wurie, Virginia State University 

Kantheti, who serves as the Program Director for Anatomy and Physiology, brings a humanity-first approach to campus every day. “She is one of the most caring people I have ever met. All of her students know that they can come to her anytime they need help,” says Noah Baker, an aspiring Dental Hygiene student at Lanier Technical College. Watch the video below to see how Kantheti puts herself in the shoes of her students.

Top Author Award

A dynamic student body calls for dynamic course materials. It’s why educators have turned to Top Hat’s authoring tools to create interactive and outcome-driven educational resources. While we’re pleased to announce four finalists for this award, Ninetta Papadomichelaki and Lash Keith Vance received this accolade.

  • Ninetta Papadomichelaki & Lash Keith Vance, University of California, Riverside
  • Matthew Barry, University of Pittsburgh 
  • Naomi Latini Wolfe, Troy University 
  • Anne Tapp, Saginaw Valley State University

As faculty members in the University Writing Program, the duo recognized that students arrived to class with one pervasive misconception: “good” writing should look a certain way. It’s why they chose to author their own dynamic text with Top Hat, A Reader’s Guide to Writing, that would let them customize topics, discussions and instructional resources to hone writing skills for a variety of contexts. “They are doing what good writing programs should do, which is use technology not as a crutch, not as something to replace instruction in the classroom, but as a distinct and different supplement,” says Wallace Cleaves, Associate Director of the University Writing Program at the University of California, Riverside. Watch the below video to see why 92 percent of students consider themselves to be better critical thinkers since using Vance’s and Papadomichelaki’s text.

Aktiv All-Star Award

It’s one thing to deliver a lecture. It’s another to weave hands-on activities, discussions and group exercises into lessons. Our inaugural Aktiv All-Star award recognizes the professor who uses Aktiv Learning—the intuitive chemistry platform that was recently acquired by Top Hat—to help students visualize complex chemical structures and mechanisms. While we’re thrilled to unveil three finalists, Beverly Meinzer took home this exciting award.

  • Beverly Meinzer, University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville
  • Kerry McFarland, Colorado State University
  • Heidi McMahon, College of the Canyons

One of Meinzer’s teaching goals? Help students apply chemistry concepts to the real world. Aktiv has played a big role in this process, especially with targeted instructional feedback that shores up learning gaps in the moment. “Ms. Meinzer would nudge us in person as well as Aktiv nudging us online and having the two together was much easier for a lot of the students in the class to easily comprehend the material,” shares Biology student Cathy Shonk at the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville. Watch our video to see how Meinzer turned passive learners into confident participants with the help of Aktiv.

Congratulations to all finalists and winners of our 2023 Top Hat Educator Awards! Watch our on-demand talk for a reminder of the life-changing role educators play in the student journey. Plus, hear more about each winner’s inspiring impact on campus.

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