A university is only as good as its faculty members. UT Austin English professor and folklorist J. Frank Dobie once said, “I have come to value liberated minds as the supreme good of life on earth.” Such a superlative is not achieved without the hard work of great teachers.
For more than a century, the Texas faculty made the university a hotspot of intellectual achievement and a magnet for brilliant students. The Texas faculty has included winners of the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, and many others. But the highest achievement of its members is always the minds these professors inspire with their teaching.
Below we present eight of Texas’ best, the 2018-19 recipients of the President’s Associates Teaching Excellence Awards, using their own words about the art of teaching.
I don’t want students to simply memorize information. I want them to engage in research and in their communities.”
Bethany Albertson, Government
Courses: American Government; Political Psychology
“In my American Government class, I like to learn about what issues matter to them and help them think through how they can advocate for change. … I don’t want students to simply memorize information. I want them to engage in research and in their communities.”
A successful teacher is one who is always learning.”
Daina R. Berry, History
Courses: Gender and Slavery in the United States; The Domestic Slave Trade; Antebellum Slavery
“A successful teacher is one who cares about students and is open to being flexible in the classroom. Successful teachers engage students in their current research projects, and most of all, a successful teacher is one who is always learning.”
I am fiercely committed to the role of public higher education in this country. It is one of our country’s great success stories.”
Minette Drumwright, Advertising and Public Relations
Courses: Communication and Leadership; Integrated Communications for Non-Profit Organizations
“My goals as a teacher are to educate students to think critically, to communicate effectively, to solve problems resourcefully, and to inspire and prepare them to lead and act in responsible, ethical ways in their workplaces and in society. … I am fiercely committed to the role of public higher education in this country. It is one of our country’s great success stories.”
I always tell my students that I am the oldest student in the classroom.”
Gloria González-López, Sociology
Courses: Sociology of Sexual Violence; Feminist Theories; Sexual Violence Across Mexican Cultures
“I consider the classroom to be a revolutionary space where learning for social justice and change can take place in creative and inspirational ways. For me, teaching and learning are the two wings of the same colorful immigrant monarch butterfly: It is a nonstop journey for me as an educator and a human being. … I learn a lot from all my students each semester. I always tell my students that I am the oldest student in the classroom.”
Being a teacher is energizing in a way that no other job can be."
Kristin Harvey, Statistics and Data Sciences
Courses: Elementary Statistical Methods; Data Analysis for Health Sciences
“I am constantly amazed and inspired by what they have accomplished and what they will accomplish in the future. Being a teacher is energizing in a way that no other job can be. I love getting to work with so many like-minded faculty, and I doubt I could find anywhere else where there is such a collection of passionate faculty to work alongside.”
Everything we teach should be meaningful to students in some way.”
James Patton, Special Education
Courses: Individual Differences; Life Change Through Travel
“I have always felt and continue to feel that teaching is one of the most important careers that one can choose to pursue. Teaching is rewarding in ways that cannot be quantified. Being effective teachers comes down to having and maintaining an excitement about what we teach — relating what we teach to the real world. Everything we teach should be meaningful to students in some way.”
I’ve been doing this for a while and am still invigorated at the start of each semester.”
Shannon Cavanagh, Sociology
Courses: Population and Society; Marriage, Family and Kinship
“The people, resources and ideas that flow through this university are unmatched. This kind of energy makes teaching here a delight. I’ve been doing this for a while and am still invigorated at the start of each semester.”
I often see myself more as a coach, not just an instructor."
Keely Delain Finkelstein, Astronomy
Courses: Birth of Stars and Planets
“I often see myself more as a coach, not just an instructor, and as a coach I’m helping students build conceptual models, giving them the tools and the opportunities in class to practice the skills, the concepts, the models that we are putting together in the course. In the long run, hopefully that will really pay off, not just for their success in my class but for future learning down the road.”