HARRISBURG – Jenny Billman, English and Communications instructor and Director of Forensics at Southeastern Illinois College, has been chosen by a vote of her peers as the Loren P. and Velma Dallas Outstanding Teacher of the Year for 2021-2022.
The award’s criteria include at least three years of full-time employment; participation above and beyond classroom assignments; competence in one’s field or discipline; continuing one’s education and participating in professional development activities; rapport with students; personal commitment to higher education and the transfer of knowledge to students; upholding and encouraging ethical behavior of self and students; and giving freely to prepare students for their chosen careers.
Jenny Billman, a native of Auburn, Kentucky, has been teaching since 2008 and has been a full-time instructor at Southeastern since 2012. Billman has a master’s degree in Communication from Western Kentucky University (2007) and a master’s degree in English from Bowling Green State University in Ohio (2012).
Billman is the first female Director of Forensics for the historic and highly decorated speech and debate team at Southeastern. In 2021, Billman led the SIC Forensic Falcons to a national and international championship season, the first coach in the history of the program to do both in the same year. In addition to teaching excellence and coaching success, Billman also has had presentations at the National Communication Association conference as well as numerous publications in the areas of forensics, women’s studies and parenting.
“Jenny Billman is a perfect example of why Southeastern is the best place to begin your degree path. Her dedication and commitment remain inspiring, yet it is her compassion and care for her students that make her exceptional,” noted Paul Cummins, Division Chair of Humanities and Social Sciences.
Former students agree with Cummins. Shainna Ralston, 2021 SIC alum and Phi Rho Pi individual sweepstakes winner for Billman’s speech and debate team commented, “Jenny is by far the most humble, hardworking, loving and generous person I’ve ever met. Her enthusiasm for teaching is absolutely unmatched. Jenny is truly one of a kind, and there’s no other person that deserves this more.”
“Through my entire academic career, Jenny remains at the top of my list of favorite educators. She was quick to call out potential in her students. She provided feedback that was kind, but also instructive and clear,” said Nick Volkening, 2013 SIC alum and Lead Pastor of New City Church in Champaign, Illinois. “She invested in students relationally outside the classroom. I gained as much from her in conversations during office hours as I did through lecture. I never doubted that she genuinely cared about me. This made her a foundational influence in my professional life, and shaped the skills I’m using to make a difference in the lives of others. I’m grateful!”
Besides being a full-time instructor and head coach, Billman is married to Dr. Tyler Billman, Executive Dean of Academic Services at SIC, and they raise four active boys in Harrisburg. Billman is also an accomplished pianist and serves in the music ministry at First Baptist Church Harrisburg.
Billman’s 2022 Loren P. and Velma Dallas Outstanding Teacher Award makes her eligible for the 2021 ICCTA Outstanding Faculty Member Award, as well.
Lorna Dallas-Brown, who lives in New York and England, and the late Ellen Wiggins, daughters of the late Loren P. and Velma Dallas of Carrier Mills, established the Loren and Velma Dallas Outstanding Teacher Award in honor of their parents in 1996. Their father, a founding member of the Southeastern Illinois College Board, was passionate about education. Loren and Velma Dallas gave tirelessly to young people and wanted to provide opportunities for higher education in southern Illinois. Each year the Dallas endowment through the SIC Foundation awards $500 to the Outstanding Teacher of the Year.