The four U.S. Professor of the Year Award recipients share their teaching methods and stories during the USF Student Success Conference.
Top professors, Autar Kaw, Lois Roma-Deeley, Christy Price and Todd Pagano. Photo: Aimee Blodgett | USF News
By Brandi Hollis
TAMPA, Fla. (April 4, 2013) – When Autar Kaw walked onto the USF campus in 1987 to start his new job, it is doubtful he thought that in just a quarter of a century students would rather have e-books than textbooks, that he would email, tweet, and post YouTube videos as part of the curriculum, or that he would be awarded a 2012 U.S. Professor of the Year Award.
The first University of South Florida professor to receive the award, Kaw has been recognized for his use of innovative ways of teaching by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
Three others from around the country also were recognized as top professors.
At this week’s Student Success Conference – at the invite of USF Provost Ralph Wilcox and John Wiencek, dean of the College of Engineering – the four winners were brought together to share stories and discuss their success in student learning in a town hall-style panel.
The four professors, Christy Price from Dalton State College in Georgia; Lois Roma-Deeley from Paradise Valley Community College in Arizona; Todd Pagano from Rochester Institute of Technology in New York; and USF’s Kaw used the discussion to speak about their teaching methods and how they reached students in their classrooms.
More than 300 USF faculty, staff, professors, deans, and graduate students gathered to discuss best teaching practices with the four award winners. Moderated by Wilcox, the attendees asked questions such as how the professors evaluated their effectiveness in the classroom, how the classroom is changing, and even what they think the future of teaching will be like.
All the teachers agreed that connecting to their students and having a true passion for learning has always, and will be always, the hallmark of an inspiring teacher.
“Students want to be challenged, they want to learn, and I believe that you must have that real high expectation in a real positive way,” Roma-Deeley, head of creative writing, said. “I assume my students want to learn even if they don’t know it.”
Kaw, professor of mechanical engineering, agreed: “Students do want high expectations from teachers so I don’t think we should compromise on that at all.”
Kaw said students today want access to their teachers 24/7 and he has responded by adjusting his schedule as well as providing social media sites to connect in order to keep up with the expected instant communication students want. Kaw is an enthusiastic supporter of MOOC’s, or Massive Open Online Course’s, and reaches students with a YouTube channel, Numerical Methods Guy, a blog, as well as a twitter feed, @numericalguy.
“It’s a great and effective use of technology for instructional purposes and a wise use at that,” said Vice Provost Paul Dosal. “I’m afraid too often we become in some ways captives to the technology and we rarely adapt it as well as Dr. Kaw has done.”
The professors also praised the work that USF is doing to help students learn, like the new Smart Lab in the library and the Advanced Visualization Center.
Pagano praised USF’s student success office and said that more universities should have such a resource for students.
“Just the fact that you have a student success office, just the fact that you hired the skilled individuals who think about student success, and it comes all the way from the president, everybody actually believes in student success here and I think that’s incredible,” Pagano said.