Remarks by Jillian Dynowski, former student of Teri Balser,
2010 Outstanding Doctor and Research Universities U.S. Professor of the Year
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,
Professor Teri Balser is an icon of guidance and leadership for students at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and I am honored to be here today to introduce her.
During my time at the university, I became accustomed to the traditional large classroom with lectures presented via PowerPoint and only two exams that would determine your fate. Countless hours reading oversized textbooks were necessary to memorize that one often unimportant fact that you knew the professor was going to ask. A question that could be the difference between an A and a B on the dreaded bell curve. The focus too often moved away from seeing the "big picture" and gaining a deeper knowledge and appreciation for a subject to a high-tech driven approach often not suitable for 'real' learning.
Professor Balser immediately stood out from other teachers. Her enthusiasm and love of teaching were evident from the beginning. Class time was not just for lecture; it was also a time for interaction and discussion and a time for each of us to learn from each other.
Teri has an amazing ability to connect with all of her students and focus on the 'big picture.' The focus is never on rote memorization; instead students are encouraged to ask questions and challenge their brains so as to encourage a deeper appreciation for the subject and to build their own thinking skills. Professor Balser has a knack for making even the most complicated of ideas tangible and understandable to everyone. Her use of concept maps, drawing and graphs make words on paper come alive.
She understands that not everyone learns the same way, and she makes an effort to accommodate everyone-whether they are visual, auditory or kinesthetic learners. Professor Balser makes herself accessible; she communicates with her students in online discussion forums and goes out of her way to find answers to any and every question her students have. We learned from each other.
What makes a great teacher? First, a passion for her subject and her students. Professor Balser loves her subject, but more importantly, she loves teaching her subject to her students. Next, a work-ethic that doesn't quit. Teaching is a hard, demanding job and can require all that you can give. Professor Balser is always present for her students. Finally, a willingness to reflect. Professor Balser knows that her students are her best critics. She routinely asks her students why things went the way they did, whether good or bad. By asking her students how she can improve, Professor Balser is able to quickly adapt her teaching strategies to best meet the needs of her students.
Professor Balser has an excellent rapport with students of all levels and backgrounds. Her natural compassion is evident through her intense dedication to student learning and achievement. Professor Balser's unwavering enthusiasm is apparent in her warm welcomes, and she instills confidence. That feeling is sometimes hard to come by at a large university, yet Professor Balser brings out the best in all her students.
Professor Balser is more than just a professor; she is a mentor, an inspiration and a friend. These intrinsic qualities are the basis of my unconditional support for Teri Balser in receiving the U.S. Professor of the Year award. I cannot think of anyone who deserves it more.
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