October 2020: Dana Garner
Collegiate Assistant Professor in the Pamplin College of Business’ Department of Accounting and Information Systems
2020 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. Garner keeps experiential learning as the cornerstone of her classroom, guiding her students through real-world problems each day. “In accounting, it is very easy to become laser-focused on the details of a specific situation,” Garner said. “I encourage students to move away from just memorizing sets of facts and towards understanding how each piece of the puzzle impacts the bigger picture.”
Garner is dedicated to innovation in teaching and her industry, working hard to stay abreast of new standards in accounting and producing cutting-edge materials that are used in her own classes and by students at several other institutions. Sean Hillison, assistant professor in the Department of Accounting and Information Systems and a colleague of Garner’s, spoke highly of her collaborative drive and commitment to teaching excellence. “Dana and I team-taught a challenging accounting course together,” Hillison said. “I was a new faculty member at the time, and she went out of her way to make sure we provided a high-quality product to our students. Her willingness to help other faculty members to ensure the best possible outcomes for all students was extraordinary.”
Among students, Garner is known for her mentorship and student-centered teaching. Jeannine Lewis, a former student, spoke of Garner’s lasting impact on her life and career development. “Dana Garner is one of the kindest and brightest professors at Virginia Tech,” Lewis said. “When I took my FAR CPA exam, I could remember her unique way of teaching the material. I am truly grateful to have taken her classes—she has impacted my life and career for the better.”
For Garner, the most meaningful experience as a teacher is seeing her students succeed, both academically and in their subsequent careers. “I love receiving communications from students indicating they have passed the CPA exam or received a promotion,” she said. “Our students work so hard for their achievements and I enjoy celebrating with them.”
Now in her fifth year of teaching at Virginia Tech, Garner advises new faculty to adopt two common sense, student-centered practices in order to boost their engagement and excitement for the subject. “First,” Garner advised, “Let your students know you care about them as diverse and unique individuals. Second, reduce academic anxiety by clearly communicating expectations and organizing your course around those expectations.” Through these goals and her commitment to experiential practice, Dana Garner embodies and models instructional excellence for our teaching community.