MFA alumna honored with Valdosta Presidential Excellence Award for Teaching
Abigail Heuss, who holds a Master of Fine Arts in metal design from ECU’s School of Art and Design, is the recipient of Valdosta State University’s 2018 Presidential Excellence Award for Teaching.
The Presidential Excellence Award for Teaching recognizes a faculty member who employs innovative teaching strategies and demonstrates a strong commitment to student success. Heuss, an associate professor of art, was chosen for consistently creating an active learning environment that encourages collaboration, inquiry, and self-discovery.
“[Abigail] is the most selfless and generous teacher with which I have had the pleasure to work,” said Hollis Barnett, interim head of VSU’s Department of Art and Design. “Her Student Opinion of Instruction (SOI) scores are always among the highest within the department and the university. It is not uncommon for the students to rank her teaching a perfect five on a five-point scale.
“[She] is an organized thinker and focused instructor. She is a natural teacher. Her personality and enthusiasm is infectious for her students and her colleagues.”
Heuss, who specializes in jewelry, metalsmithing, and three-dimensional art, has taught at VSU since 2013.
“This award is such an honor,” she said. “I love my job. I wake up excited to come to work every day, and so it’s really nice to hear that I’ve had an impact on other people’s experiences at VSU as well.
“My goal as a teacher is to inspire and encourage students of all levels to work hard, to take chances by investing something of themselves into the work, and ultimately to become empowered by making art. I work to build an environment where students feel safe to ask questions, take risks, and occasionally fail at things in the short term in order to learn how to research and be active learners.”
Heuss has coordinated several exhibits to allow students to showcase their work and build their resume. She also maintains a website that features student work from VSU’s jewelry and metalsmithing courses.
Heuss redesigned VSU Department of Art and Design’s small metals lab to make it more efficient for her students and purchased updated metalsmithing tools and equipment. She also secured a grant from The Enamelist Society to purchase the necessary materials and equipment to teach enameling in one of her courses.
Her motivation to see students succeed comes from her passion for the art she creates with her students, Heuss said.
“There’s something really empowering about learning how to make things,” she said. “I think about the change in my own life that came about when I figured out that I had that power to take a material, take tools, and turn that material into something that was meaningful to me and to other people. Being able to help somebody else have that same experience is really beautiful to me.”
Heuss’s work has been featured in numerous local, regional, national, and international exhibitions and publications. Many of her pieces have won awards, and she has presented on her craft at multiple conferences.
Read more at valdosta.edu.