Elizabeth G. Layne, an English teacher at Halifax County High School, has been selected as the winner of the 2020 Hollins University Teaching Award.

Layne will receive a $2,000 award as well as a $1,000 award for her school.

The award recognizes educators who have devoted their lives to preparing students to achieve and excel in a higher education setting.

The honor is made possible by The Decker Endowment, established in 2007 by Hollins alumna Mary Bernhardt Wolfe Decker and her late husband, James DeWitt Decker.

Decker firmly believed that high school teachers do not get the recognition they deserve and set out to do something about it at Hollins with her endowment that supports both the award and a scholarship for women who wish to become teachers.

Her former student, Tori Carter, who will graduate from Hollins in 2021, nominated Layne for the award.

“In class, Mrs. Layne challenged every student to think deeper about every novel or short story we read,” Carter stated in her nomination. “She had us connect the lessons in these novels to our reality, and because of her deep devotion to teaching, I fell in love with literature and writing.”

Layne, who has 38 years of classroom experience, was named Halifax County and Halifax County High School’s Teacher of the Year in 2007, and was a semi-finalist for the McGlothlin Award for Teaching Excellence in 2012. 

“I teach because students like Tori Carter catch the same literary light I caught so many years ago,” Layne said. “I teach because Tori fell in love with words and will use those words to show the world her world and how we can make this world a better place for the next ones coming along. Her nomination means the world to me. I teach for all the Toris who have been and can be and will be.”

Located in Roanoke, Hollins is an independent liberal arts university offering undergraduate education for women and selected graduate programs for men and women.

Founded in 1842 as Virginia’s first chartered women’s college, the university features a nationally recognized creative writing program that has produced a U.S. Poet Laureate, Natasha Trethewey, three Pulitzer Prize winners, Annie Dillard, Henry Taylor and Natasha Trethewey, and a number of bestselling authors including Lee Smith, Jill McCorkle and Beth Macy.