For Cynthia Cress, teaching is a challenge. The professor in Special Education and Communication Disorders is compelled daily to challenge her students, but just as important to her success as an educator is that she also challenges herself.
Other strategies Cress uses to challenge her teaching acumen include actively working in the areas she is teaching about, making sure her research and service tie together with her teaching, and asking peers to sit in on classes to provide constructive feedback.
I love getting feedback from students about how I can improve courses and tests. I will often get some very nice ideas that I incorporate into future courses. I don’t just wait for students to come to me with complaints or suggestions. I make sure that I’m continually asking for information to help me adapt.
You have to love what you’re doing. You have to be having fun. If you aren’t having fun, your students aren’t having fun either.”
“I help students be responsible for themselves,” she adds. “I ask them to start acting professionally in class, and I keep them honest by giving them feedback about that and, if necessary, consequences.”
Cell phone use is an example. Cress suggests that you can’t be on your phone surfing the web while you’re doing therapy or teaching a class, so why shouldn’t professional realities extend to students in the classroom? In the end, these expectations for her students will help them be more successful in their careers, and their patients or students will be the better for it, too. She wants her students to understand relationships between things, which she says are more important than memorizing facts.
“I always tell students, ‘If you know why you’re doing something, you’ll be able to remember what to do and how to change it when you have unexpected results.'"
A recipient of seven Parents’ Recognition Awards from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and a Distinguished Teaching Award from the College of Education and Human Sciences, Cress prides herself on quickly learning all 60 names of the students in her classes. Her drive to challenge herself and her students pays off for her students and the speech language pathology profession. Yet, there’s one more ingredient that Cress says is required for excellence in teaching: