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Original Boyd grad honored by UAB
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Leeann Long was in the inaugural graduating class of Boyd Christian School and was its first valedictorian. Where is she now? - photo by Lisa Hobbs

The University of Alabama at Birmingham has selected 12 of its staff to be recognized for their excellence in teaching.

Making the list is Leann Long, PhD, who was among the first set of seniors to graduate from Boyd Christian School in 1999 and the school’s first valedictorian. She is currently an associate professor with tenure at UAB School of Public Health. 

“I loved my time at Boyd,” said Long. “It’s what I needed. I liked school. I loved learning. I’ve had a quality education that allowed me to figure out what I wanted to do with my life and that all started right here at Boyd Christian School.”

Boyd Christian School’s first school year began in August 1979 with grades 1-6. In 1980, the gym was constructed. A high school building was constructed in 1997. By the 1996-97 school years, BCS had grown to the 10th grade, and in 1999 graduated its first senior class.

After high school graduation, Long’s education continued at Tennessee Wesleyan University. 

“I started off as a business major, but I quickly switched to a math major. I fell in love with my math classes. It’s amazing what a good teacher can do. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I never really wanted to teach. Most of the people I knew were getting math degrees to go teach high school. I didn’t want to do that.”

Long graduated Wesleyan in 2004 and pursued a master’s degree in math at Tennessee Tech.

“Math was great, but I really loved my statistics classes. Those were the best. I tutored. I taught a pre-calculus class to freshmen at Tech and a statistics class for nurses. I graduated Tennessee Tech in 2006.”

Her next pursuit was at the urging of an advisor. 

“I had a master’s, so what do I do now? I went to school because I loved being in school. I loved learning. I decided to keep doing that. One of my advisers at Tech said if they had it to do all over again they would do biostatistics and not statistics. Biostatistics is focused on the medical community. He said it would be a rewarding field, because you feel like you’re making a difference. I went to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. I graduated in 2013. It took seven years to get my PhD in biostatistics.” 

A teaching career started at West Virginia University.

“In 2016, the University of Alabama at Birmingham stole me away from West Virginia University,” said Long. “I love my job at UAB. It’s fun. I get to teach, and I get to be on the cutting edge of science. At UAB, I feel like my teaching is valued. I feel appreciated.”

Long was recently announced as one of 12 selected to receive the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, which honors those who have demonstrated exceptional accomplishments in teaching. The 2021 honorees represent each school, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Honors College, and the Graduate School.

“I was beyond ecstatic,” said Long. “This is a nomination made by my students and fellow faculty. It’s an honor that I did not expect. I take a down-to-earth stance with my students. Life is short so be nice to everybody. That’s how I feel. I had wonderful mentors over the years and their influence has guided me towards the kind of person I want to be, both professionally and in my personal life.”

The 12 University of Alabama at Birmingham faculty will be recognized during a reception later in the fall of 2021.