I won a teaching award

My Media Hub class


There’s a story about Dean Smith — maybe it happened, maybe it is apocryphal — that he was talking with a student in his office when his administrative assistant interrupted to say that the president of the United States was on the phone. Coach Smith told her to take a message, that he was with a student.

I think about that story as I teach at Dean Smith’s university. His emphasis on students  helped me figure out what type of teacher I wanted to be. It’s well known that he was always there for his players regardless of when they played. I had similar relationships with a few professors at my college. Could I do the same?

I’ve tried, but the truth is that my real motivation is the fear that I’ll be bad. I wasn’t an academic or have a degree beyond a bachelor’s in English. The students – or their parents – pay good money for an education I am supposed to deliver, and I don’t want to disappoint them. It has helped form my teaching philosophy, which is that I don’t consider myself successful until my students are successful. And that start with being in my class and never stops.

So, it’s such an honor to win the Chancellor’s Student Undergraduate Teaching Award, an award in which students select the recipients. I’m flattered by the award, but even more humbled – and overwhelmed – by all the attention and praise my students and former students posted on social media and sent in texts and emails.

That — hearing from current and past students — was the actual award. It’s always amazed me how tenured professors — I’m an adjunct — are able to handle May. I connect with students over the course of a semester or, if I’m fortunate, a couple of semesters. We work on stories together. I yell at them; they yell back. We struggle with tone and accuracy and stories falling through. We laugh at it all. Then they graduate and leave me.

This award and the publicity that came with it caused dozens of students I hadn’t heard from in a while to reconnect. My heart is full.

Here are some of the responses on Twitter; others appeared in texts, on Facebook and Instagram. And sorry if I didn’t post yours. I had to stop somewhere.

I’ll begin with a tweet from Caroline Bass, who was a student I got to know when we were both on a UNC trip to Israel last June. I suspect that Caroline orchestrated and championed my nomination.





And I saved the best for last! See how inspiring and encouraging I am!

One thought on “I won a teaching award

Comments are closed.