SE educator awarded the Oklahoma Medal for Excellence

English professor, Dr. Margaret Cotter-Lynch was one of five educators in Okla. public schools to receive Medal of Excellence


By University Communications

Dr. Margaret Cotter-Lynch

DURANT, Okla. – The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence has announced the winners of its 2018 Oklahoma Medal for Excellence awards honoring five outstanding educators in Oklahoma’s public schools.

Among the recipients is Dr. Margaret Cotter-Lynch, English professor and director of the honors program at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. She is being recognized in the community college/regional university teaching category.

The awards will be presented at the foundation’s 32nd annual Academic Awards Banquet on May 19 at the Embassy Suites Conference Center in Norman.

The honor includes a monetary award of $5,000 and glass “Roots and Wings” sculpture designed by the late Oklahoma artist Ron Roberts and produced by Tim Brown of Edmond.

Medals are awarded annually to five outstanding Oklahoma teachers, one each at the elementary, secondary, community college/regional university and research university levels. In addition, the foundation presents a Medal for Excellence to an exceptional administrator from the elementary or secondary level.

“We know that education is the best investment Oklahoma can make in its future,” said David L. Boren, founder and chairman of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a non-profit organization that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in the state’s public schools. “By honoring these exceptional educators, we are sending a message that we deeply value excellence in public schools and the professionals who have given so much of themselves to enrich the lives of our children.”

Cotter-Lynch joined the Southeastern faculty in 2005. She he holds her Ph.D. and master’s from the University of Michigan, and a bachelor’s from Brown University.

“Dr. Cotter-Lynch is certainly deserving of this recognition,’’ said Southeastern president Sean Burrage. “Her dedication and enthusiasm in serving her students is admirable and she is truly making a difference in their lives as they work to achieve their educational goals.’’

The following information on Cotter-Lynch is included in the announcement of her selection by the OFE:

She is a scholar on literary theory, Medieval Latin grammar and early Christian theology, but at Southeastern she is best known as an encouraging mentor who helps students discover and pursue their potential.

“My best friend coined the term ‘parentessor’ to describe what I do for a living: half parent, half professor,” said Cotter-Lynch, who serves as an adviser to more than 100 English and Honors students. Many of her students come from rural communities and are first-generation college students. “For me, teaching is not confined to the classroom, nor is it about merely conveying subject-area content. It is about contributing to students’ growth and success as humans.”

Being a good human requires participation in community, she says. To that end, she has helped design a new Honors curriculum that focuses on trans-disciplinary learning and community engagement.

“This is a fancy way of saying that a student’s entire educational experience should coalesce around the goal of making them a contributing member of a strong and functioning community,” she said. The curriculum also focuses applying what a student learns in one course to other classes and to the outside world. Cotter-Lynch co-teaches a trans-disciplinary English and history course to help students learn to view content from another disciplinary perspective and consider how it applies to their own lives.

“Margaret’s warm personality and inclusive pedagogy make class compelling,” says former student Hannah Jones, who credits Cotter-Lynch with helping her secure a scholarship to pursue a Ph.D. in history in New York. “In her upper level courses, we spent most of the time engaging in circular group discussion, extrapolating on ideas found in texts we read for the week and debating different perspectives.”

Faculty Senate Chair F. Daniel Althoff said Cotter-Lynch’s courses are widely praised by her students and that her recent appointment as Honors Program director has reinvigorated the program, with enrollment skyrocketing. She was selected by students and faculty in 2015 and 2017 as Southeastern’s Professor of the Year.

Dewey Briscoe, a non-traditional student, said he is the first in his family to receive a college degree, thanks to Dr. Cotter-Lynch. “No matter how many times I wanted to throw in the towel, she would never let me. She knew what I was capable of and continued to challenge me and hold me to those standards.”


The complete list of 2018 Medal for Excellence winners: 

Brandi Caldwell, Lakeview Elementary School, Norman (elementary level)

Janet Johnson, Clyde Boyd Middle School, Sand Springs (secondary)

Ronia Davison, principal, Sadler Arts Academy, Muskogee (elementary/secondary administration)

Dr. Margaret Cotter-Lynch, professor of English and Honors Program Director, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Durant (regional university or community college)

Dr. Tyler Ley, professor of civil engineering, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater (research university)

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