Outstanding Baccalaureate Colleges Professor of the Year National Winner
W. A. Hayden Schilling
Robert Critchfield Professor of English History
The College of Wooster
After 43 years of teaching, I have no regrets about my decision to focus on undergraduate education. For me, teaching is a privilege, and I have valued the overwhelming support of The College of Wooster, where I have taught for 42 years, and my colleagues. It is a privilege to work with the young-to see them move from often bewildered first-year students to eminently confident seniors and successful alumni. I have enjoyed every minute of it.
Teaching is also a responsibility. While I have always tried to present material in interesting and engaging ways, I also have sought to make sure that students are active participants in their own education, to encourage them to challenge themselves in new ways and in new fields of inquiry, while being careful not to abuse the privilege that teaching represents.
My teaching efforts have taken me in a number of different directions. I have long been active in Wooster's First Year Seminar Program which links content seminars with advising. Having taught in the program for many years, I have especially enjoyed being one of four faculty members selected each of the past two years to conduct Wooster's Living Learning Experiment. This program places seminar groups in houses on campus and explores ways to extend learning beyond the classroom into a residential setting. So far, the results have been striking as student evaluations report on the learning that occurs in the houses, in campus events that extend to these houses, in social gatherings, and on other occasions.
A second perspective involves Wooster's independent study program, which requires every student to complete one-semester junior and year-long senior projects. This has afforded me the opportunity to experience firsthand the intellectual development that occurs in this "Oxbridge" tutorial setting. Weekly discussions, submission of chapter outlines and chapter drafts, and a finished thesis followed by an oral defense of one's work are to me the purest and most meaningful kind of undergraduate education. Moreover, this one-to-one relationship between teacher and student in a setting in which, inevitably, both are really learners remains relatively rare in American higher education. The results are often impressive as students usually exceed their own expectations. Having taught many of these students during their first year of college, it is gratifying to see the intellectual sophistication and confidence many demonstrate by the time they are seniors.
Finally, I have been fortunate to have seen teaching from still another perspective—one that can be quite humbling. Fifteen years ago, I founded, directed, and continue to teach in the Wooster-Youngstown Early Intervention Program. In this effort, we select eighth graders and bring them to Wooster twice a year and to a two-week academic camp every summer. College faculty work on the students' writing and mathematics skills while introducing them to other college-oriented fields such as natural sciences, theater, and archaeology. Our success rate in getting each student to regard college as logical outcome of high school and successfully enrolled in a college has been impressive.
Each of these perspectives has provided an insight into teaching at many different levels. The perspective on what does and does not work in the classroom, the office, or the seminar has been invaluable to me as I near the conclusion of my teaching career. Each in its own way has underscored both the privileges and responsibilities that are fundamental to successful teaching.
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