Jennifer Wilks, English

Photo by Jay B Sauceda

Though just in her eighth year of teaching, Jennifer Wilks has the poise of a veteran professor as she discusses her dual role as a teacher and scholar of American and Caribbean literature.

Wilks is well on her way to renown in both areas. She published her first book in 2008, several of her students list her as their favorite professor, and she has won two teaching awards.

Teaching is like a form of dance, Wilks says, pointing out that both require a set of technical knowledge and preparation. But, she continues, “The more I teach, I learn I must go with the flow. You learn the choreography, but there comes a point when you must let instinct take over.”

She has found that the times when things don’t go according to plan can be the most memorable. Wilks fondly remembers a discussion among the 20 upperclassmen in her Caribbean Literature course, in which a passionate debate began about whether the romantic feelings the protagonist had toward another character were requited.

“It was a great moment because the students were so excited and there were so many people participating in discussion,” Wilks says. “It also gave me the chance to talk about how every reader brings a different perspective to text, and I didn’t have to talk about it in the abstract.”

It was enthralling to see the enthusiasm, she says, but not unexpected. “My students at UT never cease to surprise me.”


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