Alumni Outstanding Teacher Awards are bestowed by the UT Alumni Association to recognize teaching excellence.
Monica Black, the Lindsay Young Professor of History, says the main goal of teaching is to help students have good and fulfilling lives. “For me, that means a life with purpose,” she says. “And as an historian and a humanist, a purposeful life means one with room for ideas.” That’s no small task, but her colleagues and students will tell you she is succeeding. Black studies and lectures on a difficult point in human history: Germany during World War II. She finds a way to help students understand what happened during this time and why it matters today. She provides a safe space for her students to ask questions and address issues. Black uses storytelling to pique her students’ curiosity and connect the past to the present. “Beginning history students have been trained to think of history as something that is simply found between the pages of a book,” she said. “But historians write history. We locate it in as-yet-unearthed documents and bring new interpretations to old debates. History is very much alive, a living practice. I try to let students in on the process of our work so they can understand this.”
UT’s German program has been a part of senior lecturer JoBeth Bradley’s life for 25 years; she began teaching while a graduate student and remains dedicated to the program and her students. She has taught and contributed to the development of almost every course in lower-division German—all with high scores on student evaluations and positive student comments. Bradley doesn’t lecture. She uses communication activities to help the students learn. “My students experience learning language and culture through role playing, participating in plays, ordering food at local restaurants, and baking traditional German cookies,” she says. Bradley serves as a coordinator in the International Teaching Assistant Testing Program and leads the Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures Non-Tenure-Track Faculty Association. She also helps coordinate activities that promote community within the program, like picnics and gingerbread house building. Bradley says her teaching philosophy is simple: “It’s not about me; it’s about the students.” A nomination from a student shows that Bradley truly lives those words, noting that she is remarkable for “the passion, dedication, and love she exhibits for her students during the entire semester.”
If not for Euridice Silva-Filho, student Eduarda Lague isn’t sure she’d be headed to an Ivy League law school this fall to study international law with a focus on Latin America. Silva-Filho, an associate professor of Portuguese, made Lague feel that she could truly accomplish anything, pushing her to be more analytical and versatile in her thinking and shoot for the stars. Lague isn’t alone in this experience. Students say Silva-Filho’s enthusiasm is contagious. He is engaging and entertaining, and they learn something new in his class every day. “The blend of culture and language alongside a very charismatic professor was the perfect combination for learning the Portuguese language,” wrote one student. Silva-Filho’s numerous teaching honors include the Senior Faculty Excellence Teaching Award and the UT Chancellor’s Teaching Award. His peers note the amazing rapport he has with students and respect they have for him.
“Statistics should not be boring; it should be exciting and entertaining,” according to Brian Stevens, lecturer in undergraduate statistics, who engages students through technology and entertaining teaching techniques. “Perhaps my teaching style is best summed up by a student who called it sneaky,” he said. “They did not even realize how much they had learned until it came time for the test.” In Stevens’s first class, his students play Mario Kart and learn how they can collect data from anything, including video games. He has an open-door policy, and students can find candy and help in his office at any time. Stevens is also something of a sensation on YouTube, where his statistics channel has surpassed 350,000 views and 1,400 subscribers. He’s even been contacted by instructors at other universities who want to replicate his idea. One student wrote, “Dr. Stevens is one of the most dedicated and enthusiastic professors I have had in my time at UT. . . . He goes out of his way to make himself available to students, and it is easy to tell he has a genuine interest in the education and understanding of all students at UT.”