Editor’s Letter: The Story Behind the Texas 10

Nominated by alumni, this list of inspiring teachers is unlike any other.

Four years ago, the editors of this magazine wanted to celebrate excellent University of Texas professors because, in our humble opinion, teachers rarely get enough recognition. That’s been especially true in recent years, and at our University most acutely.

In 2012, a badly flawed and mean-spirited report alleged that a majority of UT professors were “dodgers” or “coasters.” As people whose professional lives revolve around documenting what goes on in the classrooms on this campus, you’d think we would have heard about such widespread dissatisfaction with the teaching at our alma mater. We heard no such thing.

In fact, what really led to the genesis of the Texas 10 was the thought that we should ask alumni about the teachers who inspired them. There were numerous faculty awards out there—and at the Texas Exes we have the highly coveted Elizabeth Shatto Massey and the Jean Holloway awards—but they were all either student- or colleague-nominated. Considering that sometimes it takes a few years’ distance from 8 a.m. classes before we realize and are able to see clearly which professors really made lasting impressions, we decided to base our list on nominations from alumni.

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We named our first Texas 10 in 2011, took a year off in 2012, picked back up last year, and now, in this issue, we have our third Texas 10 class. We didn’t know what kind of response to expect when we first put out the call for nominations, but what we got was overwhelming. Hundreds of alumni submitted names. For this class, 289 alumni nominated 211 names for consideration. There was some overlap, but broadly speaking we were struck by just how many different names were put forth. With each list, we’ve noticed a strange dichotomy: the fervor with which alumni pitch their former teachers for recognition and the instinctive way most of those recipients deflect praise.

The 2014 class of Texas 10 comprises faculty members from across the campus. Some are tenure-track faculty, and some are lecturers. Some teach the hard sciences, and some the humanities. In our write-ups of each faculty member, we try to capture some element of their teaching philosophies. And whenever possible, we have tried to humanize these teachers so that you have a sense of what kind of people they are when they aren’t in the classroom.

Finally, because these 10 stars deserve as much credit as we can give them, we’ve built a special multimedia presentation of the winners on our website. It’s not as good as being back in the classroom with these teaching masters, but it’s about as close as you can get.

Happy reading, and be sure to let us know which professor or professors made a profound impression on your life at Comments@TexasExes.org. They may not seek out the recognition, but they deserve it all the same.

 

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