Darby English, Assistant Professor of Art History, was named one of the 2010 winners of the prestigious Quantrell Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. The Quantrell Awards granted by the College were established in 1938 and are believed to be the nation’s oldest prize for undergraduate teaching. This award is indicative of the academic priorities laid out by the University’s first president, William Rainey Harper, who believed that teaching was both a scholar’s moral responsibility as well as a way for academics to remain fresh leaders in their own research.
With a vibrant and enthusiastic teaching style, English certainly fulfills Harper’s criteria. Students say he provokes serious and reflective conversations in the classroom by turning the discussion back to the students, focusing on their ideas and thoughts rather than lecturing by rote. English discusses his philosophy on teaching with the University of Chicago News Office:
In a situation where the center of the lesson is an object, say, a work of art or a text, it makes very little sense, or the wrong kind of sense, for the teacher to be the principal force in the room. The object should be the motivating factor. The students and the material are in a conversation that I advise. One way for a discussion-oriented class session to succeed is by my effectively disappearing into the conversation for a time, rather than always being the figure to whom everything defers.
To learn more about the Quantrell Award and the other professors that were honored this year, please click here.