Teaching Excellence Awards

 Year Awarded: 2009

Faculty Award winner

Terry Thaxton

 College of Arts & Humanities

 English

I am a teacher of creative writing, dedicated to UCF, its students, and our community. My teaching, research, and service converge on writing a rigorous discipline and as an impetus for social change.

 

My first priority is creating an atmosphere in which students want to learn the craft of writing. I want each student to not only learn the techniques of creative writing, but to develop self-confidence as a writer and to understand how writing connects us.

When students first come to a writing class, they already know that they can write. But most of them do not know the impact of their words on others. Sometimes students are resistant to the responsibilities of craft. My job is to guide them toward transforming their writing into art. I begin each creative writing class with a series of exercises that are designed to tap into their imagination without them realizing it.

 

Once students have experienced the pleasure of imagination, they are a bit more willing to test out techniques. In the beginning, students often call these techniques "limitations." I provide a series of lectures and discussions about poetry, and provide writing exercises for them to use specific techniques. Students read collections of contemporary poetry throughout the semester, and come to class prepared to discuss techniques used in those models. Once students see the impact of carefully crafted writing, they want to find their own voice.

 

Discovering one's voice is powerful. The requirements in my courses are rigorous enough (say my students), but learning extends beyond the classroom. I require students to take their classroom knowledge into the community.

 

Art is part of culture, part of what makes community. Even the under-served deserve a right to find their voice. In my courses, students become teaching artists in the community. When students apply their knowledge in the community and see one other person discover his/her voice, they have learned not only the techniques of craft, but have discovered the power of communication. Teaching keeps my writing fresh; writing keeps my teaching honest. I write because I have to. I teach because I know what language can do. Language educates and enlightens; language connects us.