Doctoral students earn Excellence-in-Teaching Citations

February 7, 2017

Two doctoral students in the College of Education will receive Excellence-in-Teaching Citations from Michigan State University on Feb. 7, 2017.

Anthony Delli Paoli, who is concentrating his studies on Psychosocial Aspects of Sport and Physical Activity, and Davena Jackson, in the Curriculum, Instruction and Teacher Education (CITE) program, will receive their honors during the annual All-University Awards.

The 2017 Excellence-in-Teaching Citations will be presented to six individuals who distinguished themselves by the care they have given and the skill they have shown in meeting their classroom responsibilities.


Anthony Delli Paoli 

Delli Paoli combines his interests in psychology, academics and sport into his research and teaching at Michigan State University.

“I study the psychology of physical activity and how it interfaces with cognitive performance,” he says.

Delli Paoli examines how physical activity may benefit those who experience social exclusion, such as being ignored, left out or rejected. Being excluded can wear a person down, and may cause the person to suffer emotionally and physically. Delli Paoli’s work—in collaboration with his advisor, Alan L. Smith, chair of the Department of Kinesiology, and Assistant Professor Matt Pontifex—explores if physical activity (such as walking) either before or after a negative social experience can lessen adverse outcomes. He focuses primarily on adolescents in both school and sport settings.

His research is methodical and detailed—and he brings those same practices to the classroom.

“His enthusiasm and attention to detail made the course very enjoyable,” said one of Delli Paoli’s students. “His dedication to his students is what sets him apart as an educator. I felt like he truly cared about my understanding and performance in the course.”

Delli Paoli believes that learning is a process, and shouldn’t always be outcome-oriented. He doesn’t want his students to simply “go through the motions” to get a grade. Instead, he emphasizes how to learn. He does this by building a rapport with his students, celebrating their progress, and attending to what as well as how they do in class.

Once he graduates from MSU, expected in spring 2017, he hopes to teach and continue his research at a university, and continue to connect with students.

“When I was younger, I was super observant and curious. I always wanted to know how things worked and why they worked,” Delli Paoli said. “I hope to spark that same curiosity in my current and future students.”


Davena Jackson

“We are all a community of leaders,” says a line in Jackson’s teaching philosophy. Those ideals—and how this community-based atmosphere can lead to a better world—are key elements to both Jackson’s teaching and research.

In her research, she examines how race, racism and language intersect in classrooms. In particular, she is studying what asset-based approaches African-American teachers are using to engage students of color in talking around the issues of race, racism and language. The research has been in the works for some time, and spans across MSU.

Prior to starting in the CITE doctoral program, Jackson worked with Assistant Professor April Baker-Bell in the College of Arts and Letters and Associate Professor Django Paris in the College of Education on similar ideas, wondering how differing approaches to teaching in the classroom could relate to more productive conversations and deeper knowledge. Their collaborations inspired Jackson to pursue a doctorate; Paris now serves as Jackson’s advisor. (Some of the collaborative research between Jackson, Baker-Bell and Paris was recently highlighted in a New Educator story.)

Since becoming a Spartan, Jackson has begun her own research projects, building on previous work and what she has learned through her classes. Jackson, who seeks to specialize in urban education and language and literacy, hopes to engage in more critical conversations and studies with others about how to impact teaching and learning of culturally, linguistically diverse students.

Discussions ranging from race, religion and gender can be found in the teacher education classes Jackson teaches at MSU. She encourages students to share their experiences and learn from one another.

“Providing an environment where my students may flourish through sharing and interrogating others’ ideas, and collaborating with peers, I believe in a heuristic approach—to aide and guide my students,” continues Jackson in her teaching philosophy.

Jackson’s hope is that guiding future teachers in the classroom at MSU will instill in them ideas, philosophies and practices that will influence their own classrooms in the future. In return, Jackson learns from her own students, and recycles many of those ideas back into the classroom, creating an ever-changing and collaborative space that will impact many lives.

“I love teaching and I love learning,” Jackson added. “I really like working with and learning from my students. With the learning I’ve garnered in my own classes, I can apply it in the classes I teach to future Spartan educators, so that the students I teach can be the best teachers they can be when they go into the classroom.

“That’s why I came to MSU: to help others, to inspire, to motivate.”

Jackson expects to graduate from the CITE program in spring 2019.

Photos courtesy of Communications and Brand Strategy at MSU.