Two profs. spotlighted in new book about teaching
Vol. 17, No. 27April 16, 1998

Two profs. spotlighted in new book about teaching

Two UD professors- Georgia B. Pyrros, mathematical sciences, and William T. Harris, economics- have been highlighted in the book, Successful College Teaching: Problem-Solving Strategies of Distinguished Professors, by Sharon A. Baiocco of Jacksonville University and Jamie N. DeWaters of D'Youville College.

Vignettes of Pyrros and Harris were included among 10 profiles of professors recognized for their excellent teaching in an area encompassing New York, Massachusetts and Delaware.

The book presents an overview of the changes and challenges facing the teaching profession at the college level and ways of meeting these.

The two UD professors were profiled in the chapter, "Studies in Excellence," which opens with "What better way to begin examining distinguished teaching than by observing the masters?"

For each profile, the authors give a brief background of the teaching awards and recognition the individual professors have received. Also included are interviews with the professors and some of their students, as well as observations of a class described in detail.

A native of Greece and educated in the European tradition, Pyrros said she demands attention from her students when she teaches, the authors pointed out. She credits "the will to put a tremendous amount of energy into teaching" as a factor in her success, but also tries to find out what problems the students are having and to "show them the way out."

During the class the authors attended, she cruised up and down the aisles, asking questions which she answered and explained, doing problems on the overhead while students did them on calculators.

Later, she asked questions of the students, praising them when they succeeded but also asking 'who has no clue?' and responding to these students.

Of Harris aka "Crazy Willie," the authors wrote, "His combination of playfulness and rigor are a magnet for students who fill his classes to capacity every semester." He is "explicit in presenting his expectations and requirements," they pointed out and students must sign that they understand class policies and procedures.

The class the authors attended was on monopolies, and they described how Harris made the topic interesting, using as examples the Panama Canal and cable TV, engaging his students, whom he addresses as "ma'am" or "sir," in discussions of analyzing costs and market demand. When talking about his teaching, Harris said, "It's economics. Yuck. You have to work exceptionally hard to get people's attention. I use a little bit of humor through pop culture to break the ice...."

According to the authors, the "supertraits" of excellent teachers include, among others, the qualities of expressiveness, empathy, organization, ability to inspire, rigor and conscientiousness.

-Sue Swyers Moncure