2020 Biggs Award for Excellence in Earth Science Teaching

Presented to Sue Ebanks

Sue Ebanks

Sue Ebanks
Savannah State University


Citation by Dr. Sarah K. Fortner, Wittenberg University

Today we enthusiastically recognize Sue Ebanks for her teaching excellence, service, and leadership in the geoscience community.  Sue has a deeply responsive teaching style and varies how she engages using diverse approaches that appeal to students at distinct life stages including transfer adults, traditional entry students, majors and non-majors. Sue has course, program, and cross program development and assessment expertise through many leadership roles with NAGT. This includes service on the inaugural NAGT HBCU working group. Through her leadership and mentorship, Sue has helped future faculty learn and plan to teach inclusively and in ways that are more aligned with a sustainable, equitable, diverse, and just future. Sue is a well-funded education research and capacity builder, through NSF, USDA, and U.S. Department of Commerce projects, she has built educational pathways, initiated partner networks, engaged many students in research, and developed tools for assessing geoscience learning, career interests, attitudes and cultural relevance for the benefit of the larger geoscience education community.

Across her teaching, research, and community engagement, Sue has imparted the sense that societal, cultural, and personal relevance should be a core attribute of geoscience education especially in introductory courses. While serving on the National Academies Workshop on Service Learning in the Undergraduate Geosciences, Sue noted that connecting to our students is our core work as educators, “To be relevant, you have to know the audience. We need to ask students what they are interested in and then listen to their answers.” Not surprisingly her former students all commented on her attentiveness to them in class and how she connected them to further resources and opportunities as they continued their careers. At all scales of engagement, Sue is doing the critical work we need to make the geosciences more accessible and supportive.


Response by Sue Ebanks

First, I sincerely thank you for recognizing me as the 2020 recipient of the Donald and Carolyn Biggs Award for Excellence in Earth Science Teaching. Honored is too light of a word for the way that I feel when I reflect upon being recognized by the selection committee, my colleagues, and my students for what I consider to be necessary work. The responsibility to serve people and the planet in a way that meets each one where they are and take on the mantle to not leave them in a state of confusion and disrepair has been a blessing instilled in me since a very young age. It is one of my responsibilities.

To my colleagues: I sincerely thank Dr. Sarah Fortner for nominating me and for having the commitment to see this for me, assuring me that this was the thing to do. You are a leader in so many ways and it is wonderful getting to see you shine in so many ways. Continue to exude calls to action. To the writers of my letters of support—Dr. Mary Carla Curran, Dr. Dana Taylor, Dr. Catherine Riihimaki, and Dr. Lisa Gilbert. Carla, thank you for your commitment to excellence. Your special flavor of guidance was an enrichment for my graduate experience and continues to be now during my professional career. Thank you. Dana, you truly inspire me with your grace in being the hands and voice for those that cannot hear the story and for taking the time to make sure that they have the opportunity to come along for the adventure. Thank you for giving of your time and effort to prepare a letter on my behalf. Catherine and Lisa, the dynamic duo, we have shared many hours working to blaze the trail forward to continuously improve the experience for all who engage the Geoscience Community. For each of these years that we have been together to serve the future of the Geoscience Community in the Earth Educators’ Rendezvous and Preparing for an Academic Career workshop, as well as the Science Education Resource Center and now the National Association of Geoscience Teachers Traveling Workshop Program, it has been like a rebirth of excitement each time. I eagerly await the next steps in our journey. Thank you for taking the time to prepare your letters of support. To the team of other colleagues, and especially to Dr. Carol Pride, my Department Chair, thank you for collaborating with me along the way and for the encouraging exploration of new partnerships outside of the box, too.

To my students that answered the ask: Mrs. Amara Davis, Mr. Kevin Blair, Ms. Jessica Ahlers, I do thank you for your letters, yes, I do. However, more importantly, I thank you for allowing me to come alongside you in your adventure. In you, I see in you so much of myself and yet the seeds of so much more. Each one of you brings me a smile with each thought. Continue your quest to grow and give of yourself. You are indeed the reason why I do what I do.

And the last will always be my first. To my family…

My husband and colleague, Dr. Dwight Ebanks, you have been there since the collegiate beginning of this academic endeavor and I look forward to many more days and years of walking this amazing planet by your side. Thank you for continuing to share in our life together.

My parents and partners in educating our children, Mr. & Mrs. Oscar & Rebecca Chaplin, thank you for always being willing to give of yourself (yes, singular!) in any way possible. You have always had the gift of being able to support our aspirations.

To my joy, Junpei Glenrick and Jax Samuel, you are indeed the greatest gifts that I have ever received. Seeing you grow and learn…I could ask nothing more. Yet I continue to receive more. Yes, I get to be the principal of the Chaplin-Ebanks Homeschool, but I enjoy being your mom most of all.

To those I could not mention here, have yet to meet, and may never meet, may we continue to grow in grace towards each other as one planetary family and in knowledge and understanding of this amazing planet. May we always care enough to share what we have. Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore, get wisdom; and with all thy getting, get understanding. -King Solomon, Proverbs 4:7.