I am just getting back from the Connected Educator Luncheon on my campus. This is an annual event where the Office of Instructional Technology (OIT) staff recognize faculty members who were nominated by students as being “connected educators.” Roughly thirty faculty members were honored at the luncheon along with two “winners,” who received the most student nominations.
During the luncheon the OIT staff had a slide show playing with pictures of the nominees and representative quotes from the students who nominated them. I was sitting near the front of the room and was able to read each of the quotes. I was struck by the key themes that motivated the students to nominate their professors. OIT defined a “connected educator” as a faculty member who makes an “exemplary contributions to teaching with technology, demonstrated commitment to student success, and the sound application of technology to facilitate achieving measurable learning objectives.” Many of the student quotes included praises for professors who used contemporary technology tools to engage them during class. However, I also saw several quotes commending professors for simply responding to student emails or sending reminders about course related announcements. Several students also commented on how their professors cared about their success, believed in them, challenged them, and encouraged them to persevere. I was struck how, although this was a technology award, the focus of most of the comments was students expressing their appreciation of professors exhibiting the fundamental characteristics of a caring educator.
I am quite confident that there is an association between this being my first year using IBL and this being the first time that I was recognized at the Connected Educator Luncheon. I have always felt connected to my students and loved teaching, however, IBL has enhanced both of these areas for me. I feel more connected to my students, because I am able to witness them grappling with problems, understand their strengths and weaknesses, challenge them intellectually, and provide them with the individual support that they need. Traditional teaching methods did not provide me with these opportunities to connect with students. Additionally, I am enjoying my classes more than ever, because I get to watch students experiencing “aha moments,” helping each other, thinking critically, and enjoying mathematics. I know that my students can tell that I love teaching them and I am happy to see that this is inspiring them to love learning.