2022 Teaching Award winners ,from left, Kyoko Omori, Marissa Ambio, Amy Koenig, Karen Brewer
Hamilton’s highest awards for teaching were presented to four faculty members by Dean of Faculty Suzanne Keen during the May 3 faculty meeting.
Jeanne Willcoxon
Jeanne Willcoxon. Photo: Nancy L. Ford

Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Literatures (Japanese) Kyoko Omori received the Samuel and Helen Lang Prize for Excellence in Teaching; Assistant Professor of Hispanic Studies Marissa Ambio was honored with the John R. Hatch Excellence in Teaching Award; Assistant Professor of Classics Amy Koenig was awarded the Class of 1963 Excellence in Teaching Award; and Professor of Chemistry Karen Brewer received the Class of 1962 Outstanding Teaching Award.

In addition, Assistant Professor of Theatre Jeanne Willcoxon received Student Assembly’s Wertimer Award.

Award descriptions and a list of previous recipients can be found on the Dean of Faculty website.

 Kyoko Omori
Kyoko Omori

The Samuel and Helen Lang Prize for Excellence in Teaching

Keen called Lang Prize recipient Kyoko Omori “exactly the type of professor Helen Lang had in mind when she established the prize 25 years ago.” A student nominator wrote that “while [Omori’s] standards are high, she offers ample support to meet her expectations.” Another student said she “has helped me through various difficulties as I transitioned from a poor public high school to the rigors of Hamilton College. She helped me find purpose in my personal research and helped me find a new path in cinema I never thought to have existed in the first place. … She showed me films that have changed my entire world, books that have opened my eyes and that I still cherish to this day, and the knowledge I will use as a film scholar when I pursue a doctorate. [Omori] is the professor I strive to be when I leave Hamilton College.”

Marissa Ambio
Marissa Ambio

The John R. Hatch Excellence in Teaching Award

A nominator of Hatch Award recipient Marissa Ambio wrote, “She makes an effort to make the conversation both nuanced enough for those within the culture(s) to learn and broad enough for those outside the culture(s) to understand and contribute.” Another student who was in a class of Ambio’s previously wrote, “I know that every day I step in the classroom I will leave happier and more knowledgeable than how I came in. Every single comment that she writes on my work is filled with constructive criticism that has helped me improve immensely in both language and analysis. It’s a privilege to have her as a teacher.” The student added, “Profesora Ambio’s desire to help her students succeed and grow their knowledge of Hispanic studies is deeply rooted within her. It is more than a mere obligation to her, and that is what gets noticed by her students.”

A third student recalled that after a presentation she and Ambio attended, “We started talking about the intersections between the material in the lecture and the material in our class. She got so excited that I had noticed the connections, and it was so nice to feel like I was not only learning from her, but also having productive, real conversations … [Ambio] wanted to learn from me just as much as I wanted to learn from her. … She is one of the most thoughtful professors and people I have met in my time here.”

Amy Koenig
Amy Koenig

The Class of 1963 Excellence in Teaching Award

Class of 1963 Teaching Award recipient Amy Koenig was described by a student nominator as “the smartest person I have ever met,” and a “priceless asset to the Hamilton faculty.” The influence has been so profound that the student is inspired to follow in Koenig’s footsteps and become a teacher in the same field. Another student called Koenig a “holistic educator who makes her students better thinkers, writers, and communicators in general. Work is never returned without [plenty] of insightful feedback,” she said. “My writing skills have increased tenfold while learning from her, as she has worked tirelessly with me on tactics to better structure my papers and communicate my ideas clearly. “I am forever grateful for how she has quite literally changed the trajectory of my life,” a student wrote.

 Karen Brewer
Karen Brewer. Photo: Nancy L. Ford

The Class of 1962 Outstanding Teaching Award

Keen called Class of 1962 Teaching Award recipient Karen Brewer “an exemplary teacher, role model, and pioneer in course development.” A student nominator wrote, “She teaches difficult and obtuse topics … in a way that is understandable.” Several students cited Brewer’s near-constant availability. “She always goes [the] extra mile to have many office hours throughout the day, but also in the evenings to ensure busy students, especially athletes, have plenty of opportunities to get help on material.” Said another, “[Brewer] fostered my curiosity and love of learning in ways essential to my development as a scholar, [including] spending every Tuesday night from 10:30 p.m. until as late as 11:30 p.m. during my first semester on campus in her office discussing chemistry.” Several nominators said Brewer is a role model and a mentor. Revealed one, “[S]he is a champion for women … as the only female professor in Chemistry, and is a role model for those that may feel marginalized by the subject area.”

“She is also a first- generation college student,” said another nominator, “so if she could overcome all of the obstacles, then it was possible for me to do so too.” Nominators also called special attention to Brewer as a champion, designer, and co-teacher of the SSIH course in her department and as an active supporter, backer, and teacher for the Opportunity Program at Hamilton, noting that she designs an additional course for HEOP students while continuously supervising summer research students. “Over the three years I have attended Hamilton,” concluded one nominator, “not a single semester has gone by without Professor Brewer somehow making my life better.”

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