Sponsored by the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, the Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching is presented annually to as many as two Virginia Tech faculty members. Recipients receive a $2,000 cash price and are inducted into the Academy of Teaching Excellence.
Heilker has taught everything from first-year composition through technical writing and literary nonfiction to doctoral-level courses in rhetorical theory. He has been a mentor to students working on major writing projects and, since arriving at Virginia Tech in 1994, has served as Capstone Project director for 31 master’s students in English. He served as co-director of the doctoral program in rhetoric and writing from 2006 to 2011 and director from 2011 to 2013.
In 2011, Heilker began serving as one of the founding faculty members of the Presidential Global Scholars Program, an interdisciplinary, residential semester-abroad experience run by the Honors College. As the program’s director since 2016, he revised the curriculum and increased student enrollment in the program from 13 to 35 in 2017 and 34 in 2018.
“As an engineering student, I am much more comfortable in my fields of math, science, and engineering than I am with personal, reflective writing,” wrote Casie Venable, a former student, in a letter of nomination. “Dr. Heilker encouraged me to embrace the feeling of being uncomfortable and allow that to come through in what I write. He taught us that writing is a process, and we have to start where we can.”
Heilker consistently seeks new ways to grow as a teacher. In 2011, he earned his master online instructor certification and began developing an accelerated, three-week version of ENGL 3764: Technical Writing, which is now a popular offering in the university’s summer and winter sessions. In 2014, he launched a major effort in undergraduate research, which had participants from a dozen different majors.
A member of Virginia Tech’s Academy of Teaching Excellence since 2006, Heilker received a Certificate of Teaching Excellence from the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences in 2016 and the Dr. Carroll B. Shannon Excellence in Teaching Award in 2017. He has published three scholarly books on the teaching of writing.
Written by Lindsey Grooms, a public relations major and member of the Class of 2019