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The impact of Sheri Thornburg-Brock’s teaching can be seen and felt across the state of Alabama and beyond. The associate professor in the School of Kinesiology was recognized for her work with the Gerald and Emily Leischuck Endowed Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching—one of the highest honors bestowed on Auburn University faculty. 

“Dr. Thornburg-Brock has proven to be an exceptional faculty mentor for both undergraduate and graduate students,” said Mary Rudisill, director of the School of Kinesiology. “As a master teacher for the physical education teacher education program, she invests significant time in working with students who aspire to become physical education teachers. Her tireless commitment to ensuring that our pre-service teachers receive top-notch training and experiential learning is commendable.”

Her commitment to teaching excellence is evident in the results: She has guided and served as a dissertation chair and committee member for 31 doctoral students and advised 46 master’s students. All of them have secured employment as teachers or professors, with many receiving prestigious Teacher of the Year awards.

Former doctoral student Brenna Cosgrove Miller described Thornburg-Brock as having a “profound” impact on her education.

“Her courses were academically rigorous, yet she skillfully maintained a relatable and understanding demeanor—a balance that she effortlessly achieved,” Miller said. “Additionally, I had the privilege of observing Dr. Brock as she taught undergraduate courses. As I reflect on the reach of her teaching influence, it’s overwhelming. Dr. Thornburg-Brock has positively impacted the lives of hundreds of aspiring physical educators, consequently benefiting thousands of K-12 students. I can confidently say that our field is stronger because of her.”

Thornburg-Brock said it is the success of her students that drives her.

“I have been preparing physical educators for over 25 years and there is no greater joy in teaching than to see my students succeed,” she said. “Success is multifaceted, not only including theoretical knowledge and exceptional practical expertise, but also attaining gainful employment and achieving a balanced life that helps them achieve their aspirations professionally and personally.”

Peter Hastie, the Wayne T. Smith Distinguished Professor in the School of Kinesiology and a physical education teacher education faculty member, said Thornburg-Brock’s classroom instruction is just the beginning of the ways students’ education is enhanced by her teaching methods.

“Dr. Thornburg-Brock has constructed her coursework so that there is value added for multiple parties,” Hastie said. “By having her students spend significant supervised time in schools, Dr. Brock has allowed over 400 school-aged students annually to receive quality instruction. As a further layer, the curriculum and instructional methods used in their school field experiences have provided significant professional development opportunities for teachers.” 

One group of school-aged students in particular, the special education students at East Samford School in Auburn, have benefitted from Thornburg-Brock’s teaching. She engages her current students to provide adapted physical education instruction to students with disabilities, including taking a field trip to the Town Creek Inclusive Playground and attending the annual Special Olympics Track and Field event in Smiths Station, Alabama. Dr. Thornburg-Brock also has two students from the EAGLES (Education to Accomplish Growth in Life Experiences for Success) program in her course, Physical Education for Individuals with Disabilities.

“What better way for students to learn about physical education for individuals with disabilities than by learning alongside students with real disabilities? Dr. Thornburg-Brock's enthusiasm and willingness to include these students in her class is what inclusion is all about,” said Jessica Milton, assistant director of student services for the EAGLES program. “The course, and Dr. Thornburg-Brock, have quickly become their favorite class and instructor. The students are not only learning about material they are interested in, but they are going into the school system to work with students with disabilities in their physical education classes. Dr. Brock has provided these two EAGLES students with this amazing leadership opportunity to show the school-aged students that anything is possible.”

Luke McKinney is a physical education teacher education student who was enrolled in class with the EAGLES students and taught with them at East Samford School.

“Having the opportunity to teach alongside the EAGLES has made me a better student and person,” he said.

Thornburg-Brock said she hopes the partnership with the EAGLES program and East Samford School inspires her students to reach their full potential while purposefully sharing the fruits of their education and expertise.

“It is this spirit of service that exemplifies my teaching,” she said. “My students will attest that I give them every opportunity to achieve excellence in a way that is structured and meaningful. They spend an enormous amount of time teaching hands-on in local schools. These practical experiences meet one of our community’s most pressing needs by reducing teacher-to-student ratios in overcrowded classes, as well as provide unequivocal experiential learning for our students.”