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‘Great Teacher’ Bradley Elliott instills confidence in students to become problem solvers


By Jenny Wells-Hosley 

photo of a professor
Bradley Elliott

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 23, 2024) — In March, the University of Kentucky Alumni Association honored six recipients with this year's Great Teacher Awards

Launched in 1961, they are the longest-running UK award recognizing accomplished and passionate educators.

To receive the honor, teachers must 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.

Bradley Elliott, Ph.D., lecturer in the Department of Mathematics in the College of Arts and Sciences, is one of the distinguished 2024 Great Teacher Award recipients who strives to give his students the confidence to be problem solvers — even if they think they aren’t good at math.

“A lot students in my 100 level classes don’t like math, they’ve had bad math experiences,” Elliott said. “I’m honest with them on the first day — I say ‘I’m not going to try to convince you that you will need to know this formula to do some future job,’ but instead tell them at some point, they’re going to need to solve a math problem that they haven’t seen before.”

In the mathematics classes 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.

Elliott says instilling this mindset is especially important in an era when calculators, and Google, are always at students’ fingertips. 

“My philosophy is to train my students to be problem solvers,” he said. “We don't need to train them to be little human computers anymore. We need to train them to be critical thinkers.”

“There was just an incredibly positive, forward thinking whenever he interacted with the students, and whenever he interacted with me personally,” said Camden Jackson, a chemical engineering major who nominated Elliott for the award. “What compelled me to nominate Dr. Elliott [was] how much he cared for each of his students individually. There was just such a strong desire to ensure that I learned everything and was getting all of the content and concepts, and just succeeding in his class in every way.”

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. 

In addition to being named a 2024 Great Teacher, he is also the recipient of a 2024 Outstanding Teaching Award

To learn more about what makes Elliott a “Great Teacher,” check out the video above. 

In the coming weeks, UKNow will continue to share videos featuring this year’s Great Teacher Award winners.