Passion for teaching motivates award-winning faculty members

Passion for teaching motivates award-winning faculty members

There are many ways to measure a teacher’s worth.

For some, it is the measure of their reviews online. For others, it is how successful their students are after graduating. For three award-winning faculty members at TCU, it is their passion and ability to interact with students that makes them great educators. 

Dr. Suzanne Huffman of the Bob Schieffer College of Communication, Dr. Robert Rhodes of the Neeley School of Business and Dr. Cecilia Silva of the College of Education were awarded the Deans’ Teaching Award last December during TCU’s 2014 fall commencement.

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Each year, fellow faculty members vote on the winners of the award after each nominee submits a portfolio consisting of a statement on teaching, a list of past accomplishments and a letter of nomination along with four letters of support, according to the Academic Affairs Administrative handbook.

Professor Aaron Chimbel, a former student and now colleague of Huffman, and wrote a letter of support for her nomination.

“She’s a professor who takes a lot of one-on-one time with students which I think is the hallmark of TCU,” Chimbel wrote. “[She’s] the embodiment of a TCU faculty member.”

Rhodes, a professor of Management, Entrepreneurship and Leadership in the Neeley School of Business, said interaction with students is key to being an effective teacher.

“I try to walk that line of being open, friendly, accessible and not having a threatening environment,” Rhodes said.

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Silva said preparing students to obtain real world experience through working with a Fort Worth public school and guiding them through the experience is what she values the most with teaching.

Interaction with students is what has motivated Silva to continue teaching at TCU.

“I think more important than anything is relationships,” Silva said. “Students drive what I do.”

A teacher’s ability to effectively communicate with students is just as important as building relationships with them, both Chimbel and Rhodes said.

“I think she [Huffman] is very clear with her students and is very direct and honest with them,” Chimbel said. “Why I think she’s a teacher, essentially, is because she wants other people to do better than she did in some cases.”

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Rhode said the ability to convey his lessons to his students is one of his most effective attributes as a teacher.

“I think that I have a strong ability to take incredibly complex stuff and present it in a way that anyone, even someone with no background at all, can genuinely understand it,” Rhodes said.

The common denominator with all of the recipients is their passion for teaching.

“One of the things I try to do is just to reveal that passion I have,” Rhodes said. “I am excited about what I teach today–probably more so than when I started 30 years ago.”

Chimbel and Silva both agree passion is what drives themselves and their peers, including Huffman, to better themselves as educators and to better prepare the students to take on the real world.