They are mysterious. They are elusive. They are cunning. They are the first ones to arrive on campus and the last ones to leave. You may only see them but once or three times a week when you are in class, or when they emerge from their studious dens. The fate of your future lies in their hands. They are the professors of Sam Houston State University.
Since 1879, these warriors of education have roamed the halls and walkways of academia. They have unselfishly given and shared their knowledge and wisdom to attentive, and willing students.
Among these instructors, a few stand out as exemplary educators whose commitment and diligence sets a precedent for others to follow. In an effort to recognize these special teachers, SHSU awards the coveted Excellence in Teaching Award each year.
Nominations for this year’s award will continue until Feb. 21. Students and faculty can nominate an instructor they feel is deserving of this recognition by going to the SHSU Web site and clicking on the appropriate direction bar.
After the nominations are tallied, the Excellence in Teaching committee will narrow it down to between three and five finalists. The finalists are then asked to give a teaching demonstration before the committee and will be interviewed individually by the committee’s chairman.
The award will then be presented to the committee’s selection at graduation ceremonies.
Committee Chairman and professor of political science Dr. John Holcombe won the award in 1991. He said that he remembers his experience of receiving the award vividly.
“The university president saw me right after the ceremony and told me that he had seen many award announcements and that he could really tell that the graduates agreed with the decisions,” Holcombe said.
Winners also receive $14,000 and a medallion with their name and the year inscribed on the back.
Holcombe said it was his love for teaching that helped him win the award.
“My career in teaching is what I care about most,” he said. “Now, I am in a position to make sure somebody else wins it.”
Former award recipient, Award Committee Member and professor of philosophy Dr. Frank Fair said choosing a winner can be a very taxing.
“Sometimes the choices are really difficult to make. You would like to give out three or four of these awards,” Fair said.
Fair explained that the student’s recommendations give the committee a good place to start, but there is a lot more that goes into it. Besides student and faculty approval, they also look for consistency and how long the teacher has succeeded over a period of time.
“There is no formula. We choose people who are at the top of their game,” Fair said.
The teaching demonstration also has a big influence on the committee. As an instructor, Fair said that it gives him a chance to see what colleagues are doing across campus.
“It is inspiring,” he said.
Fairs said he feels very proud to have been one of the award’s recipients.
“It is one of the most prestigious awards that can be bestowed on a teacher,” Fair said. “It is like saying that faculty and students approve of what you are doing.”
The Excellence in Teaching Award was started as a way to honor teaching and has been given out every year since 1975.
This year’s nine-member committee will make its final decision in March and officially dub the 2003 Excellence in Teaching Award winner in April.