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Faculty of The Teachers College Honored by Peers

The Teachers College faculty awards

Five members of the faculty and staff at Emporia State University received awards on Jan. 8 for their work within The Teachers College.

Dr. Basil Kessler received the Excellence in Instruction Award. Kessler, an assistant professor in counselor education, received the award for his “personable and enthusiastic approach towards the subjects he teaches, and his role as an ambassador and model for his profession.” Providing provocative lectures, classroom activities, and assignments, Kessler “strives to cause enough cognitive dissonance that students have to rethink what they believe or know and move into different levels of understanding.” His courses — including sign language — are popular and his commitment to his students led to a nomination for best advisor last year.

Dr. Damara Paris was presented the Excellence in Scholarly Activity Award. Paris, an associate professor in counselor education, was recognized in part for working collaboratively with teams to pursue three highly-competitive federal grants within a five-week period of time last summer. Two of the grants were funded, providing more than $2 million dollars in resources to prepare personnel to work with deaf and hard of hearing individuals and those with autistic spectrum disorders. As the author of numerous publications and presentations, including six international conferences in recent years, Paris transforms the understanding of rehabilitation counseling, disability studies, and instructional design.

Dr. Lendi Bland received the Excellence in Service Award. Bland, instructor of elementary education, early childhood, and special education, was honored for her sense of service to her profession and her community, and aiding her students to become service-minded. Her efforts have been as wide-ranging as being President of the Kansas Literacy Professionals in Higher Education to working the ESU booth at the Dirty Kanza. “Both in word and deed, she is an advocate for the ideals of The Teachers College and a voice of support, encouragement and promotion for people and causes.”

Each year, the Darrell E. Wood Service Award goes to an individual who has supported the mission of the college in a unique or outstanding manner. This year’s award went to Dr. Clinton Longacre, director the sport leadership & recreation program and an associate professor in the Department of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation. As a role model and ambassador, he is involved in campus activities providing support and service to various ESU organizations and activities. For years he was a one-man program to oversee the recreation major. He advised all students majoring in the area, spending untold hours advising hundreds of students. In 2019, he was the driving force behind the complete revision of the recreation program to become sport leadership and recreation, as “preparation starts with a leadership development emphasis in his classes and is followed by practical experiences to develop and implement leadership skills.”

Gaelynn Wolf Bordonaro received the Ervay Family Award for Applied Scholarship. Her research conceptualized a field model for survivors’ experience and co-developed a unique nursing curricula about death and dying to help students reflect on and develop their responses to the death in a personal and professional sense. Her students also explore self-care practices.

Recipients for these faculty recognition awards are nominated by their respective academic departments and selected by a university-wide committee. Each winner receives a plaque and a monetary award to be used by the recipient for professional development expenses.

To view a list of previous recipients of these awards, visit