Teaching Excellence Awards

 Year Awarded: 2013

Faculty Award winner

William Safranek

 College of Medicine

 Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences

I do not know if many educators formally construct their teaching philosophy before they walk into a classroom for the first time; I certainly did not when I started as an adjunct instructor at UCF in 1996 or when I became a full-time instructor in 2005. I am certain all educators think strongly about the kind of instructor they want to be.

First, I want to provide my students with an educational experience that prepares them for life outside the university. All instructors delight in seeing that proverbial light turn on when a student finally grasps a difficult concept, but my greatest satisfaction is seeing a student making the connections with what they have learned from my courses to what they are experiencing academically beyond my classroom and in their lives. By "preparation for life outside the university," I do not just mean landing the job you want. I believe an instructor needs to foster students who are intellectually, morally, and emotionally well-rounded. Also, learning does not take place only in the classroom. Instructors must think of what experiences they can offer their students beyond our 50-minute blocks of class time to encourage the development of those well-rounded students mentioned above.

Instructors need to be enthusiastic about the subjects they are teaching and about teaching in general. Everyone can cite bad experiences with unenthusiastic instructors and good experiences with enthusiastic instructors and what a difference they can make. The best instruction requires instructors who have expertise in the subjects they teach and who have an appreciation of current pedagogical methods. I stay current in both of these areas by reading the applied and general microbiology literature and by attending seminars and courses on teaching methods offered by the university.

Lastly, instructors must be available to their students. I do this by scheduling and attending flexible office hours, responding promptly to student e-mails, and being available if a student just wants to talk. The students are ultimately the reason we are here, and we need to be there for them.