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College of Education 2021 Jack Miller Award winners announced

The Jack Miller Faculty Awards are given annually to recognize Georgia Southern University College of Education (COE) faculty for demonstrated excellence in the areas of teaching, service and/or scholarship. Awards can be given in each area along with an additional Educator of the Year Award, which recognizes scholarship in all three of the considered areas.

For the 2021-2022 academic year, four COE faculty members received Jack Miller Awards including Katie Brkich, Ph.D., Kymberly Harris, Ph.D., Peggy Shannon-Baker, Ph.D., and Steven Tolman, Ed.D.

Professor of Elementary Education Katie Brkich, Ph.D., was named the 2021 Jack Miller Educator of the Year, an accolade that is presented to the COE faculty member who demonstrates excellence in all three of the areas of the Jack Miller awards including teaching, scholarship and creative activity as well as service. Brkich, a 10-year veteran of the College, serves as the program director for the M.Ed. Elementary Education program as well as the interim director of the fully online MAT in Elementary Education degree program. Her research interests include place-based and inquiry elementary science teaching and learning, science for social justice, as well as contextually-mitigating factors in science education. Most recently, Brkich published in the May edition of the Journal of Multidisciplinary Perspectives in Higher Education. Her article, “Managing My White Fragility (It’s Not About Me),” explores her own experiences in 2020 in trying to teach a course addressing culturally relevant pedagogy alongside a Black colleague who is an expert in social justice education. 

Brkich is a member of the College’s Faculty Executive Committee and served as an elected board member of the Georgia Science Teachers Association (GSTA) for two terms from 2016-2020. She previously received the Jack Miller Award for Scholarship and Creative Activity in 2019 and served on a team of COE faculty members who received a Affordable Learning Georgia grant in 2020 for over $25,000. 

Kymberly Harris, Ph.D., associate professor of special education, received the 2021 Jack Miller Award for Service, making her a two-time recipient of this award after first winning the award in 2014. An over 10-year member of the Council for Undergraduate Research (CUR), where she also serves as an officer, Harris mentors special education majors at Georgia Southern completing educational research and assists in promoting and presenting student research at local, state and national conferences. Harris serves as the program director for the M.Ed. Curriculum and Instruction–Accomplished Teaching program as well as the new fully online Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) endorsement. A member of the College faculty for over 15 years, Harris provides expertise to numerous organizations including CUR, the Georgia Department of Education, Georgia Professional Standards Commission, and the Georgia Association of Positive Behavior Supports.

Since 2008, Harris has collaborated with Meng Deng, Ph.D., and Beijing Normal University as well as additional schools and scholars in China to present information on differentiated instruction for diverse learners and PBIS initiatives to establish behavior supports and social culture needed for all students in a school to achieve social, emotional and academic success.

The 2021 recipient of the Jack Miller Award for Scholarship and Creative Activity is Peggy Shannon-Baker, Ph.D., assistant professor of educational research. Since joining the COE in 2017, Shannon-Baker has published articles in eight academic journals, written five book chapters, and given numerous scholarly presentations both nationally and internationally.  Their scholarship bridges two areas: the prevalence and impact of systems of oppression such as racism and heteronormativity on education and the development and use of culturally sustainable research methods. Shannon-Baker has been awarded two competitive College research support awards–one for a research assistant (2018-19) to work alongside them on the research projects related to multicultural education and mixed methods research. They also received a COE Research Support Award (2018) for a student collaboration on developing a theory of Critical Race Hermeneutics. Shannon-Baker has also worked on research funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Youth Advocacy and Resilience Foundation. 

Shannon-Baker is a departmental representative for the College’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, an affiliate faculty member for Georgia Southern’s Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program, and a Diversity and Inclusion Faculty Fellow for the Georgia Southern Office of Inclusive Excellence. 

Steven Tolman, Ed.D., assistant professor of higher education administration, received the 2021 Jack Miller Award for Teaching. A faculty member with the College since 2017, Tolman serves as the program director for the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership program and teaches graduate level courses on educational leadership and higher education administration. Tolman is a 2019 merit recipient of the Outstanding Faculty Advisor award for the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) where he was recognized for his efforts to communicate and mentor students. On top of in-person appointments, he also allows students to schedule through an online portal to have appointments via phone, Skype or face-to-face advising sessions in centralized areas such as Atlanta, since many of the graduate students he teaches are online. Tolman has served on 24 dissertation committees, of which he is currently chairing six. When working on his own scholarship centered on the profession of student affairs and the residential and co-curricular experience of college students, Tolman often collaborates with students to complete publications and presentations.

About Jack Miller

Jack Miller was the former Dean of the College of Education at Georgia Southern. He endowed the Jack Miller Faculty Awards in 1994 after leaving to accept the position of Dean of the College of Education at Florida State University. Miller retired in 2016 from his position as the President of Central Connecticut State University. Miller passed away in April 2018, leaving behind a legacy as a passionate and dedicated leader in higher education across the nation.
For more information about the Jack Miller Awards or to view past recipients, visit


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