The University of Texas at Austin
  • Teaching at its best

    By Tara A. Doolittle
    Published: Dec. 9, 2011

    The University of Texas at Austin’s commitment to exemplary teaching was on display Thursday night, as seven faculty members were inducted into the university’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers.

    2011 Distinguished Teachers

    Pictured from left to right: Jay L. Banner, Charles J. Holahan, Sharon Jarvis, President Bill Powers, Beth Maloch, Michael W. Downer and Yale N. Patt. Not pictured: Marjorie Woods. View a larger version of this photo. Photo: Marsha Miller

    The banquet highlighted the accomplishments of faculty members from across the university who have been recognized by their peers and students for their contributions to education, particularly at the undergraduate level.

    “Among the many ways we reward good teaching on the Forty Acres, none is more special to me than the induction of new members to the Academy of Distinguished Teachers,” said President Bill Powers, who was inducted into the academy in 1997 as a law professor.

    The inductees were named by Provost Steven Leslie in June, and each will receive a permanent academic salary increase of $7,000 and be designated as a Distinguished Teaching Professor.

    The 2011 inductees are:

    Jay Banner, professor
    Department of Geological Sciences, Jackson School of Geosciences
    Banner has been the director of the Environmental Science Institute since 2000. He has received recognition for his work in the classroom from students and peers. He took a leadership role in the university-wide effort in curriculum reform and helped establish the “Hot Science – Cool Talks Outreach Series” that brings scientific research to the university community, the public and especially to K-12 teachers, via live and webcast lectures.

    Michael W. Downer, professor
    Department of Physics, College of Natural Sciences
    Downer is among the most highly rated undergraduate instructors in his department, with his lowest overall instructor score from students in the past year being a 4.3 out of 5. He has developed low-cost “Cir-Kits” to allow students to build and study electrical circuits in the classroom and at home. In addition to overseeing a well-funded and large research program, Downer remains active in summer and school-year academic programs involving undergraduates.

    Charles Holahan, professor
    Department of Psychology, College of Liberal Arts
    Holahan has received numerous teaching accolades and receives high marks from students. He has served as both undergraduate adviser and honors adviser in Psychology and is credited with shaping the current structure of the Departmental Honors Program. He was also one of the architects of the Liberal Arts Honors Program.

    Medal

    Sharon Jarvis, associate professor
    Department of Communication Studies, College of Communication
    Students describe Jarvis as energetic and generous with her time outside the classroom. In addition to receiving various teaching accolades, she is director for research at the university’s Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Participation, which works to increase voter participation and build citizenship. She has directed more than 100 students to outreach programs at the institute serving the people of Texas. She is also an award-winning author, and her research projects have won top awards.

    Beth Maloch, associate professor
    Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education
    Described as a demanding yet caring teacher, Maloch challenges her students by providing real experiences in urban classrooms. For example, her students serve as reading tutors at Allan Elementary School in East Austin twice a week, and she uses video and visits to exemplary teachers as part of her curriculum. In her role as faculty coordinator, Maloch is responsible for a cohort of 20 to 25 students. She teaches many of their classes, coordinates their field experiences and assists with their placements in classrooms. Her teaching honors include the Outstanding Teaching Award from The University of Texas System’s Board of Regents.

    Yale N. Patt, professor
    Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Cockrell School of Engineering
    Known as a tough grader who assigns heavy workloads, Patt still gets consistently high evaluations from students. His landmark textbook has been adopted at more than 100 colleges and universities, including Cornell and Purdue. He has also worked to provide support for students who need additional preparation for the rigors of electrical and computer engineering, including designing a supplemental course, which received funding from Intel Corp.

    Marjorie C. Woods, professor
    Department of English, College of Liberal Arts
    Woods’ teaching style requires extensive student participation, with a student or group of students introducing the discussion for every class. Her writing assignments include imitation exercises and, for research papers, cumulative assignments divided into stages. She also takes all of her classes to the Harry Ransom Center to look at manuscripts for classes focused on the medieval period and valuable archives for classes focusing on other periods. She is the recipient of the Rome Prize for the American Academy in Rome, the Harry Ransom Award for Teaching Excellence in the College of Liberal Arts, the University President’s Associates’ Teaching Excellence Award and the Chad Oliver Plan II Teaching Award. Woods was unable to attend Thursday’s banquet because she is currently at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University.

    Established in February 1995, the Academy of Distinguished Teachers was one of the first associations of its kind in the nation. Deans of colleges and schools annually nominate faculty for membership, and a committee that includes members of the academy, students and other faculty review the nominations and recommend a slate of honorees to the provost, who makes the selections. The 2011 inductees bring the university’s total academy members to 126.

    • Quote 2
      Camellia said on Dec. 20, 2011 at 2:29 p.m.
      Congratulations Professor Downer! I took your class two semesters ago and I surely can attest to that. You're such an inspiring professor and your class made Physics so much more interesting, despite all the difficult homework.
    • Quote 2
      Jim said on Dec. 16, 2011 at 6:22 p.m.
      I am sure all these faculty members are very deserving. I only hope you have an "Academy of Distinguished Staff" members, who are outstanding workers at UT also. Some of these hard working, underpaid staff need some recognition as well. A $7000 raise for some of them, is needed too.
    • Quote 2
      Nomi said on Dec. 15, 2011 at 12:03 p.m.
      Yeah. Go Dr. Patt!! ECE is the real major!
    • Quote 2
      Nadav said on Dec. 11, 2011 at 6:39 a.m.
      Congratulations to all winners. It definitely shows the commitment of teachers to good education. Nadav
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