Ronald Kleinknecht Excellence in Teaching Award

The Ronald Kleinknecht Excellence in Teaching Award is presented annually to one instructor or visiting faculty member from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences who has made outstanding contributions to teaching at WWU. The award was established by Ronald A. Kleinknecht, the founding dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Selection Criteria

The following criteria and policies are meant to secure comprehensive evaluation and maintain goodwill in the process.

  1. No person will receive this award more than once.
  2. Only the name of the winner of the award will be announced on completion of the process.
  3. The candidate must be an instructor or visiting faculty member in the College.
  4. Nominees will be asked if they wish to be candidates and, if so, required to submit materials to the committee. ­
  5. The award is a teaching award, not a research award; materials submitted should speak to teaching. ­
  6. To secure consistency in the evaluation process:
    • Supporting materials from the candidate will be limited to no more than three years. Student evaluations should be representative of courses taught within three years of teaching at Western. The candidate should provide copies of syllabi, reading lists, writing assignments, final exams, and any related materials used in the courses; more is not necessarily better in these materials.
    • The candidate will supply the committee with two letters of support from students and two letters of support from faculty members, based on observation of the candidate’s teaching.
    • The candidate will provide a current vita.

The candidate may provide up to two pages describing aspects of his/her teaching that may not be covered by the requested materials.


The award recipient will be presented with a Western medallion award at the Celebration of Excellence Awards in May. Depending on availability of funding, the award will normally include a $1,000 stipend.

Award Administration

CHSS Dean’s Office

Nomination Process

Nominations are solicited from alumni, students, and faculty members.  A selection committee will review the candidates’ files and designate the recipient of the award. The committee will consist of one College affiliated tenure-line faculty member, one College affiliated student (selected by the AS Vice President for Academic Affairs), one previous award winner, and will be chaired by the Dean of the College. Nominations for the 2023 award CLOSED December 1. Thank you to those of you that took the time to nomination someone!


Lindsay Poynter wearing a WWU award medallion

Lindsay Poynter - Health & Human Development

As a graduate herself of the Recreation Management and Leadership program at Western Washington University, and with 18 years of private mental health counseling practice in Washington State often drawing upon her master’s work in wilderness therapy, Lindsay brings a unique lens to her instruction at Western. In the 11 years she has been teaching at WWU she has taught over 15 different courses in RML and Health and Human Development.  Some of the early training that has created her foundations in teaching include work in outdoor and contemplative education, group development, and adventure therapy including former work with Outward Bound School, Passageworks Institute, Women’s Wilderness Institute, and her time as a graduate student at Naropa University.  Lindsay has long been passionate about the intersection of nature and health and lifting barriers that get in the way of humans accessing nature connection.  During the fall of 2021, one of her students (Ben Crandall) approached her to help advise his Fairhaven senior project—an idea that involved creating an Outdoor Wellness peer mentoring program. With the support of the RML program, the Counseling and Wellness Center, and the Outdoor Center, the Outdoor Wellness program launched this spring. Mentors and mentees meet weekly and utilize nature connecting experiences, mindfulness, physical activity, and socialization as support for mental health wellness. 

Past Awardees

1 awardee(s) for this year

2021 Awardees

Photo of Kirsten Drickey, Modern & Classical Languages

Kirsten Drickey - Modern & Classical Languages

Kirsten Drickey has taught at Western Washington University since the Fall of 2009. As part of the Department of Modern and Classical Languages, she regularly teaches courses on language, literature, and culture in the Spanish-speaking world. Kirsten also teaches in the Honors program and has led study abroad programs in Guatemala and Ecuador. In addition to her own courses, Kirsten coordinates the Spanish facilitators as part of Western’s Employee Language Program, in which upper-division language students lead conversational language workshops for university faculty and staff. Recently, Kirsten has collaborated with colleagues in Linguistics, and an evolving cohort of undergraduate students in Spanish and Linguistics, to create a research team focused on helping intermediate students of Spanish better understand and produce the sounds of the language. The team’s work includes creating materials to teach Spanish in ways that build confidence and encourage students to engage with the language beyond the classroom. This team has shared research at numerous academic conferences; samples of this work can be found on their site, Talleres Guacamayo. The unifying thread of all of Kirsten’s work is an abiding commitment to building community through thoughtful engagement with language and culture.