Teaching Excellence Awards

 Year Awarded: 2010

Faculty Award winner

Farrah M. Cato

 College of Arts and Humanities


My teaching has always focused on student-centered classrooms where critical thinking and active engagement are key. This foundation allows me to work on the primary goal of my pedagogy: to teach students how to use their education in the world around them. To this end, I employ a variety of strategies for different learning styles. I incorporate collaborative-learning groups, creative problem-solving activities, student projects and presentations, service-learning projects, and (increasingly) the use of new technologies. I want my students to own their learning, and to leave the classroom with greater confidence in their abilities to engage their world. By encouraging community in the classroom, I urge students to use their voices and participate in intellectual risk-taking. By incorporating service-learning and other technology-based projects, I offer students the opportunity to apply their learning in both practical and meaningful ways. By constructing prompts that require critical, creative, and original thinking, I challenge students to approach problems in unexpected ways. Sometimes, these approaches make students uncomfortable. They simply want me to supply an “easy” answer. They learn quickly that I won't. Instead, students find someone who will work with them, offering strategies on how to solve whatever challenges they find. To treat students otherwise-to hand them knowledge-is a disservice. Offering students the best education possible means teaching them how to generate questions and answers on their own, and not only in my classroom. Students frequently comment on my rigor, but they also note that such rigor has given them stronger critical thinking abilities, improved communication skills, and increased confidence in expressing their ideas in and out of class. Teaching students to trust their voices, their ways of reading and thinking critically, and to become engaged in their learning are crucial steps to truly educating them. Su