Clinical Assistant Professor Raha Naderi, RDH, MEd, has been named the 2021 recipient of the Lorna J. Bruning Award for Outstanding Teaching at UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry.
Chosen by second-year dental hygiene students, the Bruning Award recognizes a faculty member who demonstrates exceptional knowledge and competence towards effective learning. Naderi’s honor was highlighted with the presentation of a framed certificate during UTHealth School of Dentistry’s annual Dental Hygiene Awards in May.
“I feel very honored and privileged that the students chose me for this award,” Naderi said. “This motivates me and only makes me want to become better and find ways to improve as an educator.”
Naderi, who is a part-time faculty member in the Department of Periodontics and Dental Hygiene, was praised by student nominators for her helpfulness in clinic.
One nominator wrote, “Professor Naderi always has ways of answering questions that will be easy for us to understand and help us improve. She has a great attitude which makes for a positive learning environment. She listens to every student’s questions and concerns, while making us feel comfortable.”
Another nominator noted, “Professor Naderi has always shown a kind and helpful demeanor. She shows enthusiasm in the clinical setting by maintaining a positive and bright attitude and is always accessible.”
Naderi, who received her bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene from UTHealth School of Dentistry in 2009, said the award was humbling. After all, the spring 2021 semester was her first as a member of the faculty. She was a volunteer, assisting in clinic four days a week, during the fall semester while completing her master’s degree in education at the University of Houston.
However, despite being new to a teaching role, Naderi said her recent educational pursuits have helped her connect with students in clinic.
“I graduated in December  and started as a clinical assistant professor in January,” Naderi said. “To be a good educator, I believe you need to be compassionate and motivational, just like my instructors were to me when I was completing my own studies here at UTHealth School of Dentistry; they were always positive.”
Naderi uses that positive outlook and presence when in clinic.
“I always tell my students to look at the glass as half-full. Even if they make mistakes, I tell them what they’ve done right first, and then I tell them what they need to improve on.”
For Naderi, who has been a practicing dental hygienist in the Houston area for 12 years, the opportunity to teach at UTHealth School of Dentistry is the realization of a lifelong goal.
“Since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a teacher,” Naderi said. “I volunteered in the fall because I wanted to be in this environment and learn.”
Naderi credits her mentor, Margo Melchor, RDH, MEd, EdD, for early success in her teaching career.
“Dr. Melchor has been a great mentor for me,” Naderi said. “She was one of my teachers, originally, and we stayed in contact over the years. When I told her I wanted to get into teaching, even before I started my master’s program, she helped show me the way. I’m so thankful and appreciative for all her help, and she’s continuing to mentor me as I pursue my doctorate in education, which I hope to start in the fall.”
The Bruning Award comes with a cash prize. Previous winners include:
- Kathy Colston, RDH, BSDH, 2020;
- Amber Lovatos, RDH, BSDH, 2019;
- Tulsi Patel, BSDH, MHA, 2018;
- Deborah Vayon, RDH, MEd, 2017;
- Ruth Conn, RDH, MSDH, 2016;
- Darla McKitrick, RDH, MS, 2015;
- Donna Warren Morris, RDH, MEd, 2014;
- Harold Henson, RDH, MEd, 2013, 2008;
- Joanna Allaire, RDH, MDH, 2012, 2010;
- Nina Bay Infante, RDH, MS, 2011;
- Holly Rice, RDH, MEd, 2009;
- Ann O’Kelly Wetmore, RDH, MSDH, 2007;
- Jayne McWherter, RDH, MEd, 2006;
- Amy Murphy, RDH, BS, 2005.