2014 Teacher of the Year awards

May 30th, 2014

Student picks include a three-time award recipient and a clinical instructor with a wealth of international experience.

Every year, with sponsorship from the Baylor College of Dentistry Alumni Association, dental and dental hygiene students cast their votes to recognize teachers whose mentoring styles, personalities and expertise make a lasting impact on their education. Here’s a bit more on who they chose in 2014.

Dental Teacher of the Year – Dr. Robert Spears


Dr. Robert Spears is a professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences as well as director of curriculum and director of student research at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry.

Spears’ research efforts have focused on the elucidation of signal transduction mechanisms during inflammatory pain, using the temporal mandibular joint and tooth pulp as models. He has several publications in this area and has been involved in numerous research grants. His teaching commitments include the anatomical sciences where he has been the longtime course director for gross anatomy and oral histology.

A great deal of Spears’ time also is spent educating students on the importance of research in dentistry and encouraging their participation in research efforts. For more than 15 years, he has demonstrated a remarkable dedication to the college’s Student Research Group, with his students winning numerous awards at national meetings. The American Association for Dental Research’s National Student Research Group also has benefited from his expertise, as he was a faculty advisor for 10 years. His students have served as officers for this group, and in 2012, the National Student Research Group named Spears Mentor of the Year.

A three-time recipient of the Dental Teacher of the Year Award, Spears was recently inducted into the Omicron Kappa Upsilon National Dental Honor Society and was presented the Basmajian Award for teaching excellence from the American Association of Anatomists. Additionally, he is a graduate of the American Dental Education Association Leadership Institute and the Harvard Macy Program for Educators in the Health Professions.

Spears received his bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University, his master’s degree from Baylor University and his doctorate from Texas A&M Health Science Center.

Dental Hygiene Teacher of the Year – Laura Gene Utt


Laura Gene Utt is an assistant clinical professor in TAMBCD’s Caruth School of Dental Hygiene.

Having spent much of her dental hygiene career at private practices throughout Germany, Texas and California, Utt joined the TAMBCD faculty to teach undergraduate dental hygiene students in 2011 when she began her master’s degree coursework at the college.

Utt is a native English speaker, but her fluency in German and Dutch led to teaching and volunteer commitments throughout the U.S. and Europe, including time as an English language instructor at the German-American Language Institute in Stuttgart, Germany. She also served as a member of the executive board of the German Dental Hygiene Association, devoted to forming an internationally recognized dental hygiene bachelor’s degree program in Germany. For several years, she coordinated a fluoride treatment program for the International School Brunssum, in the Netherlands, on a volunteer basis.

A breadth of professional experience that includes employment at general dentistry, periodontal and prosthodontics practices allows Utt to share with students her expertise in the areas of dental endoscopy and advanced periodontal instrumentation.

Utt’s bachelor’s degree is from Loma Linda University. Upon receiving her master’s degree in dental hygiene education in August 2014, she plans to return to Stuttgart, Germany, to teach and be near her two sons.

— Jennifer Fuentes