Award-winning Graduate Instructor’s Teaching Style ‘Electric and Exciting’

OXFORD, Miss. – A young historian who has literally fallen in love with teaching education students how to incorporate social studies topics into math, literacy and other areas of learning has been chosen to receive a top teaching award at the University of Mississippi.


Johnny Lott (left), director of the UM Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, presents Otis Pickett with the campuswide 2009-10 Graduate Instructor Excellence in Teaching Award. UM photo by Nathan Latil.

Otis Pickett, a doctoral candidate in history and a graduate instructor in the School of Education, demonstrates an uncommon teaching style and dedication to his profession that have earned him the campuswide 2009-10 Graduate Instructor Excellence in Teaching Award.

“Otis Pickett was chosen unanimously for this award because the letters nominating him from both students and colleagues were phenomenal,” said Johnny Lott, director of the UM Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, which shelters the award.

“His teaching style is electric and exciting – just outstanding. He uses different forms of communication and an incredible number of strategies and incorporates his research into teaching, which is most refreshing.”

Presented this year for the third time, the award includes a $1,000 prize and each recipient’s name is engraved on a permanent plaque in the J.D. Williams Library.

Expressing his appreciation for being chosen, Pickett said, “This award means a lot to me. I take my teaching very seriously, and I absolutely love it. I especially enjoy teaching education students because they can take what they learn in my classroom and apply it directly to their observation hours in the schools or in their student teaching in and around Mississippi.”

Pickett has been involved with the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the School of Education since fall 2008. Last fall, he taught two sections of Education, Society and the K-12 Learner (EDCI 352), a course that examines the history of education in America. He taught one section of the same course this spring while taking comprehensive exams. In the fall he also taught a section of Social Studies in the Elementary Classroom (EDEL 401).

“I am a historian who is training future teachers,” Pickett said. “Having a background in history, theology, archives and public history, and now in education, I think it’s important to see the many ways in which many disciplines and facets of the academy can learn and grow from sharing with one another.

“I want my students to leave my classroom with a passion for history and social studies and with an interest that drives them to teach social studies in the elementary classroom in new and interesting ways.”

Ellen J. Foster, assistant professor of secondary education and lead teacher for EDEL 401, described Pickett’s teaching style in a nomination letter.

“Otis’ background as a trained historian brings a unique world view to the social studies classroom,” Foster said. “He introduces pre-service teachers to archival data, thus training them to ‘do the work’ of historians and removing the fear that some students have about accessing archival depositories and using primary historical resources in the elementary classroom.

“The EDEL 401 Instructional Team benefits daily from his experiences and ideas shared with us and our students.”

In one nomination letter, a student wrote, “Mr. Pickett has been nothing short of amazing as my instructor this semester. He not only taught the curriculum as outlined by the department but has also been a model to which he teaches in the class.”

Another student wrote, “Mr. Pickett’s class is always stimulating. Every class was more of a group-based learning experience instead of direct instruction. The students were in charge of their learning, which is what we in education are taught to do.”

Pickett holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Clemson University, master’s degree in theological studies from Covenant Theological Seminary and master’s degree in history from The College of Charleston and The Citadel (joint program).

A native of Charleston, S.C., Pickett is married to the former Julie Thome of Aiken, S.C. They are the parents of a 2-year-old daughter, Martha Jane Caroline. Pickett is the son of Otis Moncure Pickett III of Columbus, Ga., and Martha Westbrook Pickett of Monticello, S.C.