Neag School of Education faculty member Danielle Filipiak has been named the 2023 Dr. Perry A. Zirkel Distinguished Teaching Award recipient.
Filipiak, an assistant professor of curriculum and instruction at the Neag School since 2018, has scholarly interests that sit at the nexus of youth critical (including digital) literacies, sociocultural literacy studies, and practitioner and participatory research approaches.
The Zirkel Distinguished Teaching Award is awarded annually to a full-time faculty member in the Neag School. Alumnus Perry A. Zirkel ’68 MA, ’72 Ph.D., ’76 JD is a university professor emeritus of education and law at Lehigh University, where he formerly was dean of the College of Education and more recently held the Iacocca Chair in Education for its five-year term. He has a Ph.D. in educational administration, a JD from the University of Connecticut, and a Master of Laws degree from Yale University.
“This award is very special to me, as it confirms that my colleagues and students believe in the fidelity and impact of my work here at the Neag School.” — Danielle Filipiak
“This award is very special to me, as it confirms that my colleagues and students believe in the fidelity and impact of my work here at the Neag School,” Filipiak says. “I am grateful to the Zirkel Award committee members for seeing this rigor, one that holds itself accountable to communities, as worthy of recognition.”
“I would like to thank Dr. Zirkel for creating a mechanism for publicly acknowledging the hard work of teaching. Right now, educators are being treated as political punching bags; we see this through book banning movements, the political maelstrom over AP African American Literature courses, upticks in anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, the defunding of public education at large, and current attacks on higher education,” Filipiak says. “So, I thank Dr. Zirkel for creating this award because it affirms the real rigor that teacher education courses must offer to effectively prepare students to courageously navigate these contexts without burning out.”
Since joining the Neag School, Filipiak has established a record of excellence in teaching. “Her courses are distinguished by their rigor and commitment to deeply engaging students with issues of equity and justice,” wrote nominator Todd Campbell, chair of the Neag School’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction.
“I thank Dr. Zirkel for creating this award because it affirms the real rigor that teacher education courses must offer to effectively prepare students to courageously navigate these contexts without burning out.” — Danielle Filipiak
As a faculty leader in the English Education concentration, Filipiak advises 30-40 students each year and works with Neag School advisors and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) Department of English faculty on admission and course sequencing, ensuring the program meets accreditation standards. In addition, Filipiak has established a national reputation through her scholarship on civic literacy and Youth Participatory Research (YPAR) and her service to professional organizations.
“Her teaching epitomizes the rigor and responsiveness that the Zirkel Award seeks to recognize,” Campbell wrote. “Dr. Filipiak is an inspiration to both faculty colleagues who have observed her impact on students and, most importantly, the preservice teachers she works with as they seek to engage students with rich conceptual, liberatory, and just ideas inside and outside English classrooms that she so humanely models and supports through her instruction and commitments.”
“My favorite Neag School professor is Danielle Filipiak,” Emma McCarthy ’23 (ED) says. “She is the one professor that I can just turn to.”
Filipiak recently revisioned the English education curriculum to incorporate more diversity in course readings, engage students more intentionally with social justice issues in education, and expand students’ exposure to multiple technologies and emergent literacies. In addition, she revamped the two English methods courses she teaches to center BIPOC knowledge and epistemologies intentionally and to foreground hip-hop pedagogies, digital justice, YPAR, and Black girl literacies. These programmatic changes have created a strong curricular foundation centered on critical approaches to English education.
Under Filipiak’s leadership, the number of English education students has grown significantly. For the past two years, the concentration has admitted cohorts of over 15 students. This is nearly double the cohort sizes in the years before her leadership. Notably, more than half of the students in these cohorts are students of color.
Filipiak has a few ideas on how to apply the funding that accompanies the Zirkel Award. One is to support travel for future teachers in her English education cohort who were invited to present at the National Council for the Teachers of English annual meeting in November.
Neag School alumni, current students, and faculty were invited to nominate a faculty member for the annual award, and a committee selected the recipient. Previous awardees include Tamika LaSalle in 2022, Milagros Castillo-Montoya in 2020, Jennie Weiner in 2019, and D. Betsy McCoach as the inaugural recipient in 2018.
Filipiak officially received the award during the end-of-the-year Neag School Meeting for faculty and staff on May 5, and her name will be added to the award plaque in the Neag School Dean’s Office.