Virginia Tech® home

Crystal Duncan Lane

Crystal Duncan Lane, Ph.D.

Instructor in Virginia Tech’s Department of Human Development and Family Science

Excellence in Teaching Award from the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Virginia Tech

The award, presented by the center to approximately nine Virginia Tech faculty members each academic year, recognizes a faculty member's effective, engaged, and dynamic approaches and achievements as an educator.

Among the goals of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning are advancing experiential learning at Virginia Tech and improving student learning through research-based instructional practices and student-centered design. Duncan Lane’s approach to teaching focuses on kindness, fairness, transparency and justice. “It is crucial that students in my classes believe I am treating them fairly, and that they are valued as students and human beings as well,” Duncan Lane said. “I take an active interest in their lives and work hard to make sure they know I am their teacher for life, or for as long as they need me in their lives. I am still in touch with students from 10 years ago and that is one of my greatest sources of joy.”

As an instructor, Duncan Lane has introduced trauma-informed mindfulness into an existing course, revamped an in-major course to substitute for a field study during the COVID-19 pandemic, and created a new Pathways course called “Death, Dying, and Bereavement,” which will launch in fall 2021. She also strives to create a welcoming and safe environment for her students.  “This should be and is a safe space where students can exist without shame or embarrassment,” Duncan Lane said. “It is my intention to respect and honor chosen or living names and pronouns: If I make a mistake regarding either, I welcome correction. It is also my intention to demonstrate that I respect my students and their whole being.”

One of Duncan Lane’s former students, Ben Wilburn, emphasized her impact on his life. “She is kind, she is fiercely intelligent and loyal – and she inspires the same from her students,” Wilburn said. “She gave me purpose and empowered me to be a change agent in an ever growing field of study. I credit her with every inch of success I’ve ever achieved. She is the best cheerleader a lost student could ever ask for.”

Maddie Toman, another former student of Duncan Lane, described her as one of the most “considerate and kind people I’ve ever met – qualities that every professor should have, but she excels in!” Toman added, “It has been wonderful being her student and I plan on staying in contact after I graduate!”

Duncan Lane cited “witnessing the fierceness in my students for making the lives of others better and watching as they become able to speak the language of the Human Development and Family Science major” as one of the most meaningful aspects of her teaching. “Seeing them graduate is so beautiful, as well as is watching them take flight,” she said.

Duncan Lane provided the following advice to new college teachers: “Assume the best of your students until they give you a reason not to do so. Even then, be kind. Take nothing personally.” Drawing on her expertise in human development, she added, “lifespan human development teaches us that the probability that a college student will lose at least one grandparent during college is quite high: When a student says their grandmother has died, believe them. Every time.”