Professor Receives National Geography Teaching Award

Ellen Foster recognized by National Council of Geographic Education

Ellen Foster

OXFORD, Miss. – Ellen J. Foster, associate professor of social studies education at the University of Mississippi, is the recipient of a 2019 Distinguished Teaching Award in Higher Education from the National Council of Geographic Education.

NCGE is a nonprofit that enhances the quality of geography education from kindergarten through higher education. Each year, the Distinguished Teaching Award recognizes educators for excellence in geography instruction. 

Foster was nominated by colleagues in the Mississippi Geographic Alliance and will receive the award at a ceremony Nov. 22 in Austin, Texas. 

“It’s an honor that the Mississippi Geographic Alliance nominated me for the award,” Foster said. “I’m really grateful for that nomination.”

Foster teaches Ole Miss undergraduates and graduate students in the Department of Teacher Education. Previously, she taught high school social studies in San Antonio, Texas, for nine years. 

“My favorite thing about being an educator are the ‘light bulb’ moments,” said Foster, a San Antonio native. “Whether the students are 12 or 20, my favorite part is when students finally make the connections and understand why we’re doing what we’re doing.”

For the past two years, Foster’s research has focused on comparing how geography teachers in Iceland and the United States use professional development and teacher preparation to enhance professional practice. She is also collecting data to compare teaching practices in Mississippi and Iceland because both serve a diverse array of at-risk and rural students.

Foster was awarded a sabbatical in 2019 to conduct much of this research. 

“It is an honor for Dr. Foster to have her research, teaching and service recognized at a national level,” said Susan McClelland, UM chair of teacher education. “The NCGE recognizes higher education faculty who demonstrate expertise in geography education, research and teaching, and Dr. Foster has distinguished herself nationally in this field.” 

Foster is the only higher education professional in Mississippi to receive the award this year. She holds a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from Texas Tech University, a master’s degree in teaching from Trinity University and a doctorate in geography-geographic education from Texas State University. 

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