May 3, 2022

Empowered Education with Jen Evers

Jen Evers headshot in front of a blurred picture of the USU Moab Campus

USU Moab faculty honored with distinguished Teacher of the Year awards

By Evan Rasmussen, CHaSS Communications Editor

This year, during the College of Humanities and Social Sciences’ annual award ceremony, Jenifer Evers, a clinical associate professor in the Department of Social Work at USU Moab, received the college’s Teacher of the Year award. Soon after, Evers was also presented with Utah State University’s Eldon J. Gardener Teacher of the Year award.

Since joining USU, Evers has been deeply involved in the social work program through education and research. As an instructor, Evers teaches many different social work courses, including pre-requisite courses and electives, and helps students complete their field practicums at both the BSW and MSW levels.

“The overwhelming majority of her role within the department is to interact with students and prepare them for social work practice as competent and capable professionals at graduation and beyond,” said Jess Lucero, head of the Department of Social Work.

Evers’ dedication and influence is obvious in the lives of her students. Brooke Summers, a senior majoring in interdisciplinary studies with a focus in social work, spoke highly of her time in Evers’ classes.

 “She just is amazing. You can tell that she really cares about the client population that she serves and that makes me excited to be able to do it with the people that I’m going to serve too,” said Summers.

Outside of teaching, Evers works with other faculty members to increase the reach and scope of social work at USU. By utilizing different practice methods and investigating how they influence student interest in wider social work applications, Evers hopes to help students piece together where their proficiencies overlap with client needs.

“It seems like social workers want to work with individuals – that’s sort of easier for them to wrap their minds around,” said Evers. “But we want them to understand that social work is very broad, as well, and that the skills translate.”

As an instructor, Evers is excited about opportunities that she has to constantly learn from her students through feedback and engagement with them. She compared the experience of teaching to a child’s block puzzle toy, where wooden blocks of different shapes are placed into their same-shaped holes.

“Students see the pieces and board separately, but they don’t see how they are connected initially,” Evers explained. “So we have to show them, ‘This is a star shape that goes in here.’ We have to help them make those connections, and that was really not something I understood initially.”

Evers explained that her approach to teaching comes from a desire to cultivate environments where students could try things and make mistakes without feeling put down or embarrassed. Students in Evers’ classes often use roleplay is an effective and low stakes way for students to gain knowledge about how to interact with their clients.

“I always say, ‘I still do some of these things that I’m going to talk about not doing, but this is the golden standard we’re reaching for,’” said Evers. “We are always striving for that standard and are aware when we fall short so that we can continually improve.”

Evers credited many of USU’s teaching resources with assisting in her instruction. Specifically, she cited USU’s Academic and Instructional Services, the Center for Innovative Design and Instruction and the Office of Empowering Teaching Excellence. She has completed several teaching certificate programs through these centers and has been selected to participate in the Association of College and University Educators Effective Online Teaching Practices cohort.

“I don’t know that there is another faculty member at our institution who invests as much energy and resources in honing their teaching craft as Jen does,” said Lucero.

“We always are telling students that persistence matters, and I think it does with teaching, as well,” said Evers.

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