Teach, Win, Repeat.By Jim Garringer Published: Sep 14, 2011
At Taylor, we know that good teaching isn’t accidental, it’s intentional. The application of good habits. This has been the experience of Taylor student Laura Moore.
Laura, a sophomore majoring in Exercise Science, was drawn to Taylor University because of the sense of community she experienced during her visit. It would be understandable if some believe that “community” is reserved for time spent outside the classroom. But as Laura explains, community happened in one of her first classes. The professor passed out index cards, asking the students to give their names, hometowns and interests. The next morning he had memorized their names.
“The interaction with professors is something that makes Taylor unique – they are personal with students. They have TAs (teaching assistants), but the professors teach the classes,” she says.
A Strong Commitment to Teaching is the way U.S.News & World Report describes it. It was one of the elements that led to Taylor’s fifth straight number one ranking in the Midwest Region. It’s also something that didn’t just start in the past few years.
“I’ve gotten notes and gifts from students from 20 years ago,” says Dr. Faye Chechowich, Professor of Christian Education and Dean for Faculty Development. “It has been fun. It is the relational benefit – it is about stimulating them intellectually but also stimulating them as whole people. I’ve seen it in my colleagues who have kept students in their home. One professor bought a home with a large gathering space so he could have students over.”
Laura also works for CREW, a group of students that conducts campus tours for visiting high school students considering Taylor. “My professors give me their home phone numbers,” Laura says. “We see professors in chapel and cookouts and they host students at their homes. Sometimes they will invite other professors so we will get to know more faculty members. We get to know our professors at a very personal level. It’s nice to know a professor who knows my name and I’m not just a number.”
“Teaching is the favorite part of what I do when I think about my work life,” Dr. Chechowich says. “I feel a great privilege in having small classes and being able to nurture relationships with students. I see the classroom as a space that gives me a forum to be involved with students’ growth and development.
“I don’t think I’m alone in that because I watch the way my colleagues operate,” Dr. Chechowich continues. “I think that is evidenced in the way we stay in touch with our alumni. We get invited to their weddings and get baby announcements too.”
Laura contrasted her Taylor experience with that of some friends who attend a large state college. “Sometimes they feel like they are just a number and that the teacher wouldn’t notice if they missed a class,” she relates. “Some say they wouldn’t feel comfortable asking their professor a question.
“It’s definitely nice to be able to come up to one of my Taylor professors and talk about a quiz or go to get the answer to a problem,” she continues. “For me it was that intentional community I felt when I visited as a senior in high school. I got to sit in on a science class. It was interesting to me to see how the professors interacted with their students. The professor asked me where I was from and if I was considering Taylor. Even the admissions process was personal – I was Laura, not just a number.”
Dr. Chechowich heads the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence. Founded nearly six years ago with a $4 million grant, the CTLE's goals are the enhancement of faculty teaching practices and growth opportunities which ultimately impacts Taylor's students and eventual alumni.
“I work with people who really want to be good teachers. It is a very obvious priority when you look at that level of commitment,” says Dr. Chechowich. “We also have an amazing scholarly output we have faculty who are committed to teaching but also a great record of scholarly activity. I don’t know how my colleagues do it but they do.”