|2010 Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Award to Professor of English Elizabeth Mills
May 17, 2010
Today's honoree "instills an incessant thirst for knowledge," "teaches with an open mind," and understands intuitively that "students' voices and opinions matter." If you want to teach equally well, simply follow these five basic steps:
First, love what you do. "I have never had a professor who was so excited about a class," one nominator wrote. Another marveled: "None of the students in my class brought a love of the subject to the first meeting, but we all took a love of it away from the last meeting. This was due entirely, 100%, to [this professor's] enthusiasm."
Second, inspire excellence by maintaining high standards. More than one nominator recalled the transformative effect of a "C" from this professor. For years after graduating, one alumna kept this professor's hand-written comments from a "C" paper right at her desk: "The words held great power," she explained, "for somehow they were able to get through to a notorious procrastinator, and convince her that" she could do better. Another ex-student observed: "All good teachers can cultivate their brightest students, but it takes someone who truly loves the craft of teaching to recognize promise in an average student, like I was, and to take the time to encourage that student to grow."
Third, teach the whole student. Cultivate in each student not just intelligence and academic skills, but also leadership and personal growth. "Every class I took with [this professor]," one nominator testified, "developed me as a student, and as a person. I genuinely believe that [this mentor's] teaching helped me develop into the well-rounded young woman I am today."
Fourth, don't confine teaching within classroom walls. Former students fondly recall how boundless this professor's dedication to them was: how she met them in the Union, sponsored their organizations, attended their athletic events, and invited them to dinner. "She took time to get to know us in a way very few professors do," one recalled. Another's most cherished memories occurred off-campus: "sitting on her porch, sipping lemonade," and discussing life. A student who struggled at Davidson credits this professor's personal encouragement: "At one particularly bad time, she literally took me home, put me in her guest room, gave me the latest Joyce Carol Oates novel to read, made me a peanut butter and banana sandwich, and provided nurturing that far exceeds anyone's expectation of the teacher-student relationship."
Fifth, and finally, after inspiring students at Davidson, keep inspiring them-for the rest of their lives. One nominator-now a teacher-"still look[s] to [her pedagogical] example." Another-now a writer-credits her with "[inspiring me] to put writing at the center of my life. She's passed books to me and shared ideas about her own writing. I've sent her copies of [all my manuscripts] before publication. She has guided me in so many ways, always lovingly. I am sure there were plenty of occasions when she had no time to sit with a brooding, half-crazy, wanna-be writer, but she did. She always did. And although I do not see her as often as I would like, she remains one of the most important people in my life."
For inspiring students with your passion for literature and writing; for your devotion to teaching the whole student, with integrity; we bestow the 2010 Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Award upon you, Professor Elizabeth Mills.