UW School of Dentistry

Dr. Kimberly Espinoza receives first fellowship from endowment for excellence in teaching

Dr. Kimberly Espinoza, director of the School of Dentistry’s special-needs clinic, has been named the recipient of the first fellowship from a new endowment to promote excellence in teaching at the School.

Dr. Espinoza received the year-long fellowship from the 2016-2017 Kokich Mathews Spear Endowed Fund for Academic Leadership in Dentistry, which supports a personalized master class in the art and science of effective presentation. The fellowship, which includes a $3,000 stipend, was launched in 2009 by three alumni of the school who were also one of the dentistry’s most prominent continuing-education lecture teams.

Upper body shots of Dr. Matthews, Dr. Spear, and Dr. Kokichin formal wear.
Dr. David Mathews (left), Dr. Frank Spear (center) and Dr. Vincent Kokich, shown at the School of Dentistry’s annual Dean’s Club dinner in April 2012, sought to promote excellence in teaching at the School.

Drs. Vincent G. Kokich, David P. Mathews and Frank M. Spear spent more than 25 years lecturing together as leading proponents of interdisciplinary dentistry, which emphasizes a carefully planned team approach when a patient requires different specialists. The three dedicated one of their final joint appearances, in Seattle in 2009, to raising funds for the endowment, which is intended to help School of Dentistry teachers refine and improve their pedagogical skills. Dr. Kokich passed away in 2013.

“I am excited to be selected for many reasons,” said Dr. Espinoza, who has directed the Dental Education in Care of Persons With Disabilities (DECOD) program since2014. She has also chaired the Special Care Dentistry Association’s Council of Dentistry for People with Disabilities.

“I am particularly interested in different ways to engage students in a large classroom setting. I’ve spent the last year in the University of Washington Teaching Scholars Program focusing on curriculum development and educational scholarship, and am excited to expand on this by developing my presentation skills and delivery of content to students,” she said. “It’s an honor to be presented with this opportunity.”

Dr. Kimberly Espinoza
Dr. Kimberly Espinoza

Dr. Espinoza, a faculty member in the School’s Department of Oral Medicine, was chosen for the fellowship from a field of faculty applicants by a selection committee organized by Dr. Linda LeResche, Associate Dean for Research.

Drs. Kokich, Mathews and Spear fully acknowledged the profound influence exerted by their own teachers.  As they built international reputations as dental educators, they also learned from experience what would best help students master the material at hand – evidenced-based instruction, strong communication and presentation skills, open-minded inquiry and techniques to create a dynamic and nurturing environment for students.

“We’ve learned from one another,” Dr. Kokich said in 2009. “We’ve seen what doesn’t work in teaching, and have been able to use that to teach people. We realized we never learned that in dental school. I never had the opportunity as a faculty member, if I wanted to improve my teaching skills, to be guided by people who do this for a living.”

Mary Kokich Boer headshot
Mary Kokich Boer

Dr. Espinoza will be working with Mary Kokich Boer, Dr. Kokich’s daughter, who is a faculty member in the School of Education at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash. Kokich, who holds a master’s degree in teaching and is a nationally board-certified teacher, also worked for 13 years as a public school teacher and lectured individually and with her father on topics related to effective teaching and engaging audiences.

Using the faculty member’s own course materials, the fellowship will incorporate in-depth instruction in evidenced-based methodologies and videotape practice sessions to optimize all aspects of effective teaching and learning, including:

  • Designing intentional and effective lessons – objectives, organization, content, flow, visual elements and use of technology.
  • Increasing engagement – communication strategies to promote learning.
  • Fostering active learning – developing a culture of class participation.

At the end of her fellowship year, Dr. Espinoza will be invited by Drs. Spear and Mathews to present with them at a special lecture at the School of Dentistry in the fall of 2017.

“I’m delighted by Dr. Espinoza’s selection,” Dean Joel Berg said. “DECOD has been one of our great legacy programs for more than 40 years, and it has been instrumental in training our students to become competent, compassionate providers of care to patients with special needs. Dr. Espinoza has already helped DECOD make significant strides, and with this additional training, I believe she will take the program to even greater heights.

“I’d also like to convey my deep appreciation for the endowment to Dr. Mathews and Dr. Spear and to the family of Dr. Kokich. This is a truly meaningful gesture of support for our faculty that will bear tremendous dividends in the years to come.”