Celebration of Teaching: Professor of the Year 2016

How did you feel being named the 2016 Professor of the Year?

It was a tremendous honor to be selected as the 2016 Professor of the Year, one of the major highlights of my career so far.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

I’ve come to realize over the years that my favorite part of teaching is that I’m constantly learning from my students. Most of the material I teach concerns language and culture, two topics that my students have a lot to say about. Getting them to reflect on their own lives, and then share those reflections with me and each other, helps me better understand their positions in the world, which I think ultimately makes me a more empathetic teacher.

What skills do you feel a new, inexperienced instructor should develop to be an effective teacher?

Focus on communication. Find ways to explain complex material in digestible formats, which means not only finding the right language, but also the right visuals, and the right performance styles, and calibrating the amount of material to present within a particular timeframe. It took me a few years to figure out how to get the materials that I treat as “easy stuff” into a form that students can (and want to) actually process, especially at the lower division level.

What advice do you have for faculty for mentoring TAs in pedagogy?

Give them your time and make yourself available for questions and concerns. Share with them your successes and failures in teaching, and encourage them to seek feedback from their professors and their students. And try to create an environment in which teaching is fun and enriching, and not merely labor or a burden.