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2020 Award for Excellence in Online Teaching

Recipients of the 2020 Award for Excellence in Online Teaching were the following.

Dr. Injeong Jo

Associate Professor, Department of Geography


Dr. Injeong Jo is an Associate Professor of Geography at Texas State University. She teaches courses in geographic education for both undergraduate and graduate students, including Fundamental Themes in Geography, Spatial Thinking in Education, and Technology in Geographic Education. Today she is being recognized for her online course GEO 5340: Active Learning in Geography. Dr. Jo started teaching online in 2018 and has developed six online courses so far. She currently serves as the faculty coordinator of the Online Master of Applied Geography in Geographic Education Program.

Dr. Jo’s ultimate research goal is to understand how students become geographically and spatially literate as a result of education. Most of her publications and grant projects focus on the integration of geospatial thinking skills into curriculum and instruction, as well as the assessment of teaching and learning. Dr. Jo’s active pursuit of research on geography teacher education is led by her belief in the critical role of teachers as curricular-instructional gatekeepers. Particularly, she is interested in the knowledge and skills required for preservice and in-service teachers, including the effective classroom use of geospatial technologies such as Geographic Information Systems, remote sensing, and Internet mapping technologies.

Outside the university, Dr. Jo serves as Vice President of the Korea-America Association of the Geographical and Environmental Sciences, Associate Editor of the Journal of Geography, and Assistant Editor of the International Journal of Geospatial and Environmental Research.

Dr. Laura Ellis-Lai

Senior Lecturer, Department of English


Dr. Laura Ellis-Lai is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of English, where she began teaching composition as a graduate student in 2004. She has a Ph.D. in English from the University of Texas at San Antonio, an Ed.M. in Arts in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, an MFA in Creative Writing from Texas State University, and B.A.’s in Literature and Psychology from the University of California at Santa Cruz. Dr. Ellis-Lai teaches undergraduate and graduate courses, including First-Year English, World Literature, Technical Writing, Writing for the Web, Practices in Writing and Rhetoric, Theories of Writing and Rhetoric, and Specializations in Rhetoric and Composition. She has also taught University Seminar and qualitative research-writing classes in the Honors College, developed study abroad programs to Mexico and England, and served as a faculty advisor for Sigma Tau Delta, the International English Honors Society.

Dr. Ellis-Lai has completed extensive professional development training through Texas State and other organizations over the years, including the Technology Integration Workshop, the Multicultural Curriculum Institute, Creating and Teaching an Online Course, the Online Learning Consortium Certificate in Online Teaching, the Faculty Learning Community for Adjunct Faculty, Teaching and Learning with Technology, Advanced Online Course Design and Development, and over a dozen workshops during the 2020 pandemic summer, in order to prepare for a fully online course load during the current school year. Dr. Ellis-Lai lives in San Marcos with her husband and her ten-year-old daughter, who shares workspace in the living room with her mom while attending online school during the pandemic. Dr. Ellis-Lai is being honored today for her summer 2020 ENG 3303: Technical Writing course.

Ms. Valerie Gomez, LMSW

Lecturer, School of Social Work


Valerie is being recognized for SOWK 5378: Advanced Field Practice I, a field practicum course. She began teaching the course face-to-face as adjunct faculty and two years later taught and developed the course as full-time faculty online. Through building rapport with students who provided specific feedback on their user experience and recurring meetings with the other instructors teaching the course, she quickly learned her pedagogy had to evolve. The relationship building with them helped her to create a course embedding social work competencies, workplace professionalism, and personal student growth.

Other online teaching experiences include time as a visiting scholar for a university in Bogotá Colombia (course taught: The Human Side of Artificial Intelligence), salary negotiation workshops for women (Project Know Your Worth), and compliance webinars for Special Education professionals across Texas (former role in K-12 education).

Valerie has a bachelor’s degree in Social Work (BSW) from the University of Texas at Austin and master’s degree in Social Work (MSW) from Texas State University.

2020 Award Reception and Showcase