Students list attributes of great teachers

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Expertise, communication, empathy and enthusiasm make instructors shine.

Being direct in the classroom and relating course content to everyday life were practices students at this college said make for a great teacher.

Ranger reporters asked students at random during the first week of classes what methods and attitudes of teachers they found the most effective.

Business administration freshman Edward Hernandez said the best teachers at the Alamo Colleges are those who can grab a student’s attention.

“Someone who gets straight to the point and doesn’t side-track, a teacher who can keep my attention and someone who sounds like they know what they’re talking about — that to me is a good teacher,” he said.

Hernandez acknowledged history Adjunct Instructor Thomas Rickert possesses these qualities.

“Rickert made an outstanding first impression with these qualities. I had expected a rough semester, but after meeting him, I’m relieved and look forward to this semester,” he said.

Nursing sophomore Aylin Cantu said Dehlia Wallis, professor of student development, is an example of a great professor because of her ability to connect with students.

“She was able to connect with people on a personal level. She was … very supportive and if you had any questions you could always go to her and she would … answer them with the best of her understanding,” she said.

Nursing freshman Amber Perryman explained teachers who are well-spoken and have a lively personality make the best mentors.

 Perryman chose Dustin Tune, her ethics professor from a previous semester, as an example of a great instructor.

“It was the way he talked,” she began. “It was his excitement that made students more excited and more motivated to learn.”

Art freshman Kevin Covollo, who is attending college for the first time, described the best teachers as being straight-forward, organized and easy to talk to.

Covollo described his student development professor, Alice Laffere, as comfortable to converse with.

 “It feels like I am talking to my mother,” he said.

He said being able to communicate with teachers is important to the learning process and lessens the anxiety learning can induce.

Music sophomore Debora Pena listed music Professor Cindy Sanchez, who teaches music theory and choir, as a good teacher because of her patience and personalized assistance. 

“She took her personal time to help us with notes she personally made for us to study and practice for her tests,” Pena said.

“She would make it easier on us to remember the (music) notes by making easy-to-use names for them.”

Nursing sophomore Mary Portales said the best teacher she has had in the six years she has attended this college is an anatomy teacher.

Portales said the teacher’s approachability and easy-going demeanor helped put students at ease.

“She’s so knowledgeable about the subject and very laidback, always sharing funny stories about herself,” Portales said. “She’s clear in lectures and easy to follow; she teaches in a way anyone can understand.”

Biology freshman Allis Ozornia praised a math teacher for helping students succeed in the class.

“My math teacher, Ms. Ruby Martinez, knew some of her students struggled with the subject emotionally,” Ozornia said. “She would adapt to their level and break down the work in terms they could understand and in turn help them academically succeed in class.”

Several students said positive communication, humor and relatability make teachers effective.

“It’s refreshing to see a bit of emotion and humility like that in a teacher,” she said.

Drama freshman Eliana Ayala said her drama teacher used humor in class.

“She would give dramatized monologues in Spanish at times to break up any monotony in class, and I think it helped students engage a bit more,” she said.

Biology freshman Isabel Magallan cited Professor Susanne Martinez, her government teacher last semester.

“The way she teaches makes me want to learn, like opening up personally about her experience with teaching government.” she said. “She’s funny, passionate and a super-hardcore feminist.”

Magallan said relatable and humorous teachers are some of the best teachers at this college. Humor helps the students relax around their teachers and ultimately feel more comfortable about the class as a whole.

Cybersecurity freshman Joshua Pena said teachers who come off as human and nonchalant are not only the best, but also the most memorable.

“Professor Mejias was casual in her demeanor,” he recalls his English professor from Northwest Vista, Sarah Mejias.

“She didn’t have to prove herself to me; she showed it through her actions.

For example, she did not use an authoritative tone to dictate the students, he said.

She behaved altruistically with each student, which allowed us to trust and like her as a person.”

Computer science sophomore Ashish Choduadia finds it beneficial when instructors incorporate their personal experiences in lectures for the course material to be easier to digest. 

“My math teacher, Anahita Lorestani, was a foreign student. She has experience with the two countries so she has more problem-solving techniques than we usually do because she learned from her country too and this country, too,” he said.

Bio pre-med sophomore Dom Rocha said he enjoys instructors who challenge him to illustrate his ideas in a way that would makes him feel wanted as a student.

He said his psychology teacher, David Catoculous, did that.

“He was very open-minded and tried to get us to be psychology majors in a way,” he said. “His practices were around the realms of ‘this is your class.’ He would teach, but the things we wanted to learn were the things he would teach.”

Contributors to this story are Alfred Allen, Kimberly Caballero, Katya Harmel, Sergio Medina, Sarah F. Morgan, Frank Piedra and Victoria L. Zamora


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