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Arts and Sciences faculty honored as 2024 Great Teacher Award winners

By Meredith Weber and Steve Shaffer 

Group photo of award winners
Award winners Jordan Brower, left, Bradley Elliott, Mark Fillmore, Kayla Johnson, Eric Thomas Weber and Zada Komara; and UK Alumni Association president Janie McKenzie-Wells and awards committee chair Kelly Sullivan Holland. Carter Skaggs | UK Photo

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 8, 2024) — What makes a good teacher a great one? University of Kentucky students were eager to share their opinions about the best teacher in their lives, nominating them for one of the most esteemed awards on campus.

The UK Alumni Association 2024 Great Teacher Award was recently bestowed upon six UK educators. Initiated in 1961, UK’s Great Teacher Award is the longest-running UK award recognizing teaching. To receive the award, educators must first be nominated by a student. The UK Alumni Association Great Teacher Award Committee, in cooperation with the student organization Omicron Delta Kappa, then makes the final selection. Recipients receive a commemorative award and stipend.

UK’s 2024 Great Teachers are:

  • Jordan Brower – College of Arts and Sciences: English.
  • Bradley Elliott – College of Arts and Sciences: Mathematics.
  • Mark Fillmore – College of Arts and Sciences: Psychology.
  • Kayla Johnson – College of Education: Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation.
  • Zada Komara – Lewis Honors College: Anthropology.
  • Eric Thomas Weber – College of Education: Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation.

This year's recipients were notified of the award during surprise visits to their classrooms and offices in November and December. The 2024 Great Teachers were honored Wednesday night at the UK Alumni Association Great Teacher Award Recognition Dinner at the Hyatt Regency in Lexington. Each will receive a $4,000 stipend, and they were recognized during the Vanderbilt vs. Kentucky men’s basketball game that evening.

Learn more about the 2024 Great Teachers:

Jordan Brower

Jordan Brower is an assistant professor of English where he primarily teaches film and media studies. He earned his bachelor’s degree in English at Amherst College and his Ph.D. in English and film and media studies from Yale University. Before coming to UK in 2019, he was a lecturer in the interdisciplinary history and literature program at Harvard University and, as a graduate student and then adjunct, at Yale University. In his research, Brower studies the ways artists — writers of fiction and screenplays, directors, stars — understand their positions within the increasingly complex and chaotic media industries in which they work. His first book, “Classical Hollywood, American Modernism: A Literary History of the Studio System” (Cambridge University Press, 2024), charts the entwined trajectories of the Hollywood studio system and literary modernism in the United States.

Bradley Elliott

In the mathematics classes Bradley Elliott teaches, he focuses on active learning and student collaboration. He designs lessons and assignments that develop students' problem-solving skills, so students are better prepared to solve novel problems in the future. A two-time graduate of UK, Elliott earned his bachelor’s in computer science and his master’s in business administration before heading to Emory University to earn his Ph.D. in 2020. During the summer, he is a faculty member at the Kentucky Governor's Scholars Program, working with high-achieving high school seniors. Elliott is chair of the mathematics department’s inclusive excellence committee and a member of the department’s salary committee and lecturer hiring committee. He is a participant in UK’s working group on ethics, equity, inclusion and justice in the mathematical sciences, the mathematics department’s teaching and learning seminar, and he was a member of UK’s Teaching Innovations Institute in 2022.

Mark Fillmore

Mark Fillmore is a research professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences and is a member of the behavioral neuroscience and psychopharmacology area. He joined the UK faculty in 1999 after earning his bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. at the University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario. The overarching theme of his research is understanding the role that cognitive processes have in promoting risk-taking behavior, with emphasis on recreational drug use including alcohol abuse and dependence. Fillmore has published more than 180 papers in leading journals of the discipline, has authored or co-authored 10 book chapters and has given numerous invited talks all over the world. He has also acquired more than $10 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health. He is recognized as one of the world's leading scholars in the examination of the effects of alcohol on human cognitive information processing.

Kayla Johnson

Kayla Johnson doesn't hesitate to tell her students that she was a first-generation college graduate, is from Appalachia, was low-income and faced housing insecurity as a child. In fact, she believes that sharing that information can help them. An assistant professor in the College of Education, Johnson also serves as director of Graduate Global Learning Initiatives, where she aims to provide graduate students with international experiences. In 2016, she co-founded Centro Educativo Pallata Ayllu (Pallata Community Education Center), a non-governmental organization that facilitates access to culturally grounded and community-driven educational opportunities for Indigenous children and adults in the Peruvian Andes. She earned a dual-title Ph.D. in higher education and comparative and international education from the Pennsylvania State University, a master’s in higher education from UK and a bachelor’s in English, French and secondary education from Marshall University.

Zada Komara

Zada Komara is a lecturer in the Lewis Honors College and is an affiliate faculty member in the Appalachian Studies Program and the Department of Anthropology. Komara’s teaching foci are interdisciplinary social science, material culture, archaeology of the recent past, Appalachia, oral history and the social impacts of pseudoscience. Komara earned her bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Edinboro University in Pennsylvania and her master’s and Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Kentucky. Her research focuses on archaeologies of gender, race and class and their intersection with the consumer revolution in Appalachian coal towns and on modern material culture studies on UK’s campus. She administers the UK Appalachian Center’s Coal Camp Documentary Project, a collaborative documentation effort focusing on company coal towns in Kentucky’s 54 Appalachian counties.

Eric Thomas Weber

Eric Thomas Weber is an associate professor in the department of educational policy studies and evaluation in the College of Education. He specializes in the philosophy of education, ethics and public policy, political philosophy and American philosophy. In addition to teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels, Weber is co-chair of the faculty and student recognition committee for the College of Education and has served as a member of the Honors College’s faculty council. Weber received his bachelor's degree from Vanderbilt University with a double major in philosophy and communication studies, his master’s in philosophy from Ohio University and his Ph.D. in philosophy from Southern Illinois University. He joined the faculty at UK in 2016 as a visiting associate professor in the department of philosophy and then in 2018 as an associate professor of educational policy studies and evaluation in the College of Education. His published academic work consists of five books, 36 articles or essays, 56 popular media publications and 151 presentations.


The UK Alumni Association is committed to fostering lifelong engagement among alumni, friends, the association and the university. For more information about the UK Alumni Association, visit or call 800-269-2586.