'Excellence In Teaching' Recipient Inspires Next Generation
Oct. 15, 2019
SHSU Media Contact: Wes Hamilton
Each year, Sam Houston State University honors faculty members whose teaching, scholarly accomplishments, service and academic engagement stand out among their peers. Paul Child, professor in English, is the recipient of the 2019 Excellence in Teaching Award for his tremendous impact on others in his time at SHSU.
Since 1993, Child has served in the Department of English and has been instrumental in motivating students to continue to graduate programs and beyond.
While little has visually changed from his office window view of the campus, he has seen plenty of transformation in his more than 25 years of service.
“The obvious change in students is that they are locked in on technology now. We celebrate community differently with social media. I can see students looking at their phones and interacting in new ways all the time,” Child said. “But, one thing that has been consistent in my time here is that students are always smarter than they know. I love that about Sam Houston State students. They just need to be told that and guided in ways that bring the best out of them.”
From Child’s experience, often times college classrooms are the first place where students have been asked their opinions on subjects. They are surprised to find that they have opinions. He says that the classroom culture and teaching methods at SHSU are the keys to bringing out the best in students.
“We have seen a significant change of culture at Sam Houston State, where we are constantly raising the bar. Students are capable of great things if we put the challenge in front of them, and that is what I always want to do in my classroom,” Child said. “But there is also something entirely self-indulgent in what I do. I love the subjects I teach, and I love working with the next generation of students. The amazing part of all this is that the State of Texas pays me a salary to do what I would do anyway for free, but please don’t tell the State legislature.”
Child is well known for his ability to engage students and consistently receives exceptionally high scores from student evaluations. He is an official mentor for graduate teaching assistants and mentors both undergraduate and graduate students, inspiring them to continue their English studies and aim high.
“There is a sense of responsibility among our faculty to see students further their education and accomplish their lives’ goals,” Child said. “We want our students to take their degrees and use them in ways that get them high-level scholarships and internships and help land them in graduate programs and leadership positions in the world beyond Sam Houston State.”
Comments supporting Child's nomination included:
“I frequently heard his class burst into loud laughter. My own class was wondering what could possibly be so entertaining in a course called “Studies in the English Novel.” But I knew no matter what the topic, with his quiet and thoughtful humor, Dr. Child is able to make all discussions engaging to his students.”
“Dr. Child is able to inspire his students and make them love literature. He relates the readings to the students’ real-life experiences and is able to make the sometimes dry topics interesting and meaningful.”
“In my early years at Sam, not a semester passed that he didn’t observe my teaching and provide constructive feedback and advice. He met with me regularly to review and discuss my syllabi, assignments, lectures, and teaching style. I looked forward to these meetings because they were always constructive and encouraging. His advice and directions are focused, relevant and tremendously beneficial and I am a better teacher because of his mentoring.”
Child explained that no matter his students’ majors or plans for life, he strives to find ways to connect with students through literature.
“I want my students to get more out of my classes than just reading and writing about literature and language. I want them to engage in a personal way,” Child said. “As the poet Auden once quipped, ‘A good book reads us.’ Whether the students are going to ‘use’ Shakespeare or Jonathan Swift in their day-to-day activities or not, I hope that reading these good writers tells them something about themselves and at the same time gives them an idea about horizons beyond their own.”
Invoking his own imposter syndrome, Child stated that the committee obviously must have gotten something wrong in selecting him for this award but also said he is very honored by everyone’s support throughout the process.
“I am humbled and grateful to have won this award. I am thankful to not only the award committee, but my colleagues as well who have helped guide me along the way with their encouragements and generosity. This award belongs more to them than it is does to me.”
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