Meet the 2022 teachers of the year

May 23rd, 2022

The Dental and Dental Hygiene Teacher of the Year Awards are presented annually by the Texas A&M College of Dentistry Alumni Association and selected by the college’s student body. Dental Teacher of the Year Award recipient is Dr. Joel Karns and the Dental Hygiene Teacher of the Year Award recipient is Jane Cotter, RDH.

Dr. Joel Karns

Dr. Joel Karns

“I decided to go into dentistry when I broke my front teeth and saw what a difference dentistry could make,” Dr. Joel Karns says.

Now Karns is making a difference with Texas A&M College of Dentistry students at many levels. He is a clinical assistant professor in the preclinical, removable and fixed prosthodontics labs and also provides clinical instruction to third- and fourth-year dental students. He has been a full-time faculty member for the last three years after serving on the faculty part time since 2007.

Karns finds his work with dental students to be the most rewarding time of his career, as he has been able to share his experience and knowledge of practical dentistry with future dentists. He graduated near the top of his class from what was then known as Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry in 2000, when he received the honor of Odontological Honor Society membership. He then practiced dentistry in Rowlett, Texas, for over 20 years before retiring and moving into teaching full time.

Throughout his career, Karns has had the opportunity to serve the community in patient care, volunteer work, professional presentations and collaboration with dental laboratories in education. He volunteers with Mission Arlington once a month, where he supervises third- and fourth-year students providing free general dentistry for patients with limited funds.

He enjoys spending time with his wife, Tiffany, and his 15-year-old daughter, Caroline. In his spare time, he collects Marvel comics, rides his motorcycle, and works on creative projects around the house.

Karns offers some words of wisdom for students pursuing dental careers of their own: “I would advise my future colleagues to cherish their relationships with their patients and never be above anyone or anything,” he says.

Jane C. Cotter

Jane C. Cotter, RDH

“My favorite thing about teaching is when you see students reach their full potential, and that sense of accomplishment they feel when they realize they have made it,” Jane Cotter, RDH, says.

Cotter began her career 30 years ago as a registered dental hygienist in private practice. She earned a master’s degree in Dental Hygiene Education from Texas A&M in 2009 and joined the Caruth School of Dental Hygiene faculty. She has authored and co-authored book chapters in multiple editions of Clinical Practice of the Dental Hygienist and continues to publish in peer reviewed journals.

Cotter played a key role in the design and development of the dental clinic at Baylor University Medical Center’s Charles A. Sammons Outpatient Cancer Center. In 2011, she began serving as the clinic’s dental hygienist and dental services coordinator. She also became a Mayo Clinic-certified tobacco treatment specialist to benefit thousands of oncology and transplant patients.

Cotter returned to Texas A&M College of Dentistry in 2016. She took a lead role in a curriculum change to initiate learning instrumentation earlier in pre-clinic and align subject matter across courses. To augment her teaching style, she obtained two certifications from the Texas A&M Center for Teaching Excellence and the Association of College and University Educators.

In 2016, she was invited to play a key role in an MD Anderson-sponsored intercollegiate study to continue the education of health care professionals in promoting the HPV vaccine. Cotter served in a grant study investigating the effectiveness of computerized methods for dental hygiene national board preparation. She is currently the principle investigator on a study of faculty calibration during clinic mock board examinations. Students she has mentored for undergraduate dental hygiene poster research have won state awards and been published in national and international peer reviewed journals.

Cotter received the Clinical Dental Hygienists Award from the ADHA & Crest Oral-B in 2017. In 2020 she was named a Fellow in the American Academy of Dental Hygiene. In 2021, she was appointed as a Commission on Dental Accreditation site visitor. She received the Texas A&M College of Dentistry Teaching Excellence Award in 2021 and the Distinguished Teaching Award from the Texas A&M Association of Former Students in 2022. She was also nominated for Teacher of the Year in 2019, 2020, and 2021.

— Caleb Vierkant