Skip to main content

Theresa Palmer earns prestigious University Teaching Award

Clinical associate professor Theresa Palmer, MSW, has been named a winner of the University’s prestigious 2022 Distinguished Teaching Award. A clinical associate professor and coordinator for field education in the School’s 3-year MSW Program in Winston-Salem, Palmer is among four UNC faculty members honored for post-baccalaureate teaching.

All total, 25 faculty members and teaching assistants were recognized this year for outstanding teaching and mentoring for graduate and undergraduate students. Administered by the Center for Faculty Excellence, the awards were chosen by the University Teaching Awards Committee from more than 800 nominations.

Palmer is the seventh School of Social Work faculty member to receive the post-baccalaureate teaching award since it was established in 1995. She and other current award winners will be formally recognized during a half-time ceremony on Jan. 15, at the UNC-Georgia Tech men’s basketball game in the Dean E. Smith Center. Each winner will receive a one-time stipend of $5,000 and a framed citation.

“Teaching feels like a calling for me, so I feel incredibly grateful and gratified to have received this honor,” she said.

For Palmer, the award also offers an opportunity to give back. Long-interested in assisting students in need pursue a higher education degree, Palmer intends to donate the award’s proceeds to create a scholarship fund at the School to benefit single-parent MSW students with children under 18. She is hopeful the gift will inspire others to contribute.

“Not only have I had a sister and several nieces who are single parents raising children while seeking higher education in my family, but I also see the incredible strength and resiliency of students in this same position year after year in the Winston-Salem 3-Year Program,” she explained. “I have wanted to see the creation of a scholarship for parents in this position and now have a little extra money to perhaps get something like this off the ground if others will join me.”

Palmer’s generosity further illustrates her commitment to social work students and her passion for teaching, praised Dean Ramona Denby-Brinson. Palmer, who began teaching in the Winston-Salem program in 2007, understands the importance of creating a learning atmosphere where students are encouraged to challenge one another and to “explore all angles of an issue, to stretch their own thinking, and arrive at solutions to presenting problems through critical and inclusive dialogue,” Denby-Brinson noted.

“These elements are the bedrocks of good teaching and are aspects that are readily on display in her classroom. Our students are so fortunate to be under Professor Palmer’s tutelage,” said Denby-Brinson, who thanked Palmer for her willingness to invest in SSW students. “You are truly a teacher’s teacher.”

In addition to her role in the classroom, Palmer also coordinates the Winston-Salem 3-Year Program’s field education efforts. This work includes recruiting new field sites, coordinating student matches and serving as advising field faculty for students placed throughout Central and Western North Carolina. These efforts also include placement coordination for students who have been accepted into the UNC-PrimeCare program.

Over the course of Palmer’s career, she has focused her teaching and research interests as well as community service on the areas of implicit bias and microaggression, effective pedagogy related to issues of diversity and disparity, child development and family systems, quality clinical supervision, interprofessional education, and environmental justice.

Palmer has earned both the Excellence in Advising MSW Students Award and the Excellence in Teaching Award during her time at the School. She has consistently earned an annual Dean’s Award for Teaching Excellence.

Outside of the University, Palmer provides trainings across North Carolina for the Area Health Education Centers and other community partners. She is a licensed clinical social worker, licensed marriage and family therapist, and an approved supervisor by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.

Interested in learning more about the new scholarship or donating? Email Christina Hill-Coillot, deputy director of development: coillot@email.unc.edu