Rice Profs Honored for Creating Engaging Learning Environment

first_imgWhen the weather is nice, AssociateProfessor of French Studies Deborah Harter will sometimes hold class on thequadrangle lawn.One day last semester, she walked into her French Studies 460classroom and saw a note on the door stating: “Dr. Harter’s class will bemeeting outside today.”“They didn’t even wait to ask me,” Harter recalls with a laugh.It pleased her that they acted without permission because, she says, “itdemonstrated a sense of trust, that the course is an experience that they ownand modify and play with just like I do.” She believes teaching is enhanced by“a sense of intimacy and warmth” and “free, honest and personalexchange.”Harter and the five other Rice faculty members who are winnersof the 1999 George R. Brown Awards for Superior Teaching all share an ability tocreate an engaging learning environment. The $1,5000 prizes are based on votingby alumni who graduate in ’94 and ’97.The other winners are Yildiz Bayazitoglu, Harry S. CameronEndowed Chair Professor in Mechanical Engineering; Edward L. Cox, associateprofessor of history; Steve J. Cox, associate professor of computational andapplied mathematics; Chandler Davidson, professor of sociology and politicalscience; and Zhiyong Gao, associate professor of mathematics.All six faculty members share a passion for teaching, which forHarter, “never seems to lose its richness and possibility. I can be teaching apoem, novel or philosophical text that I’ve taught a dozen times before and feelno less excited about what my students have to say.”Steve Cox loves mathematics and wants to instill the same firein his students: “Desperate to maintain the high, lit at my initial glimpse ofthe power and beauty of mathematics, I have unabashedly turned toproselytizing,” Cox says. “The reward for my zeal is the engagement I feel Iachieve from a sizable number of my students.”Yildiz Bayazitoglu believes that part of her role as teacher isto help students believe in themselves. “If they have wishes or dreams, I try toencourage them and show them that they can accomplish anything if they justfocus and plan for it.” She loves teaching because she “loves youngpeople.”In his early days as a teacher Zhiyong Gao felt frustrated, buthe says he kept working and working until he discovered an important principle:Always put yourself in the student’s position. Gao now continually asks himself: “If I were studying the subject, what would be the most important things tolearn and what would be the most difficult concepts to learn?” Teaching satisfies Gao because, “When they understand and havea smile on their face, it makes you feel you’ve accomplishedsomething.”When he was a student, Ed Cox says he felt inspired by some ofhis teachers and came to see teaching as a way of touching otherlives.As a teacher, he says he has an opportunity to “explore andshare ideas with students, to challenge and be challenged.” Cox says heconstantly strives to help his students achieve their full potential, “fullyrecognizing at the same time the uniqueness of each individual.”Chandler Davidson describes teaching as “a very complicated setof activities” and “exceedingly hard work.” Davidson finds teaching to be totally engaging, inseparablefrom who he is: “Whether I’m reading a newspaper or reading a poem, I’msubconsciously thinking: ‘How would that fit in a particular lecture?’Everything I do is grist for the mill.” AddThis Share CONTACT: Mike Cinelli PHONE: (713)831-4794E-MAIL: [email protected] PROFS HONORED FOR CREATING ENGAGING LEARNINGENVIRONMENTcenter_img ###last_img

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