Meet the 2023 Teachers of the Year
The votes are in, and the students have spoken! Dr. Matthew Kesterke was named Dental Teacher of the Year, and Professor Leah Spittle was named Dental Hygiene Teacher of the Year.
The awards are presented annually by the Texas A&M School of Dentistry Alumni Association and selected by the college’s student body. Both faculty members will be formally recognized during commencement ceremonies May 26, and they will lead the graduation procession.
Dr. Matthew Kesterke received his bachelor’s degree in biological and cultural anthropology from the University of Wyoming, Laramie, in 2003 and his master’s in biological anthropology in 2008. He earned a PhD in biological anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh in 2016. Kesterke joined Texas A&M School of Dentistry in 2016, when he became a postdoctoral teaching fellow with the Department of Biomedical Sciences. From 2018 to the present, he has worked hard as an instructional assistant professor in biomedical sciences. Some of his teaching responsibilities include human gross anatomy, advanced head and neck anatomy, human growth and development and several others. He has multiple publications to his name, and he is currently working to develop 3D facial imaging techniques and facial tracking methods to help assess the impacts of “trauma, disease and dysfunction” on patients’ skulls.
“I am beyond honored to be recognized as Teacher of the Year,” Kesterke said. “I have the privilege of teaching the best and brightest students. Their passion for learning has not only made my work at Texas A&M enjoyable, but also continues to inspire me to engage them in their development toward becoming the best professionals in Texas. I will also say that I have been incredibly fortunate in my seven years at Texas A&M to have met the most impactful mentors of my career, many of whom have been recognized with this honor in the past. It is humbling to be recognized along with them, and I look forward to continuing my own development as a faculty member, instructor and member of such a wonderful community.”
Professor Leah Spittle graduated from Texas A&M School of Dentistry in the dental hygiene class of 2011. After several years in private practice, she was hired as a faculty member for a year while also pursuing her master’s degree in Education for Healthcare Professionals. She completed her master’s degree in 2016 and moved to Arizona for a time, returning to Texas in 2018 and rejoining the school once again. Most of her time is spent in clinical instruction, and she guest lectures in various courses across both dental and dental hygiene departments. She is also in charge of the dental hygiene public health rotation at the M.C. Cooper Clinic, which she says is a true passion of hers. She is also part of the dental pathways program, working with student development to introduce high school students to the dental field.
“The word honor seems too small to encompass the amazing blessing it is to be named as Teacher of the Year,” Spittle said. “I graduated from this dental hygiene program and knew as I crossed the stage that I would be back as a professor. The love that I have for each student that I have ever taught is insurmountable. While I love providing the students with information and education, what I love most is when I get to watch them cross the stage that I crossed not long ago and knowing that they have accepted a gift that will change their lives forever. I love that I was even a small part of their journey.”