The Cavaliers' Distinguished Teaching Professorship was established in 1991 to recognize an eminent scholar for outstanding teaching of undergraduates. In addition to receiving a monetary award, Cavaliers' DTPs teach a University Seminar (USEM) and work with the Teaching Resource Center to promote the general enhancement of teaching at the University. Teaching Concerns highlights this year's winner, José D. Fuentes of the Department of Environmental Sciences.
Guided by a belief that balancing theory and application is fundamental to understanding and mastering any subject, José uses a three-pronged approach to promote interactive teaching. First, he conveys "basic theory to students in a manner that makes connections between theory and practical applications" by showing graphic or schematic representations of ideas before introducing formal theories. Next, he emphasizes experiential learning, inviting students to gather their own information to explain course concepts. Through field projects, for example, students learn why clouds form in certain ways or which ones produce precipitation and why. José's third principle of teachingaccessibilityunderlies the other two. He writes, "I value interacting with students and enjoy discussing my course material with them. I treat my students as if they are my colleagues." Using this approach, José hopes "to inspire younger generations to greet science as enthusiastically as I do." This enthusiasm and openness to students' ideas "made all the different in my [own] academic life," remarks one of José's former students, now a doctoral student at Yale.
tenure as DTP, José will work on two related projects: developing
and teaching a new USEM, "Environmental Disasters," and forging
discussions on teaching science and engineering effectively with newer
U.Va. faculty. Both projects emphasize building connections and sharing
innovative teaching techniques. Among other ideas, José is considering
teaching the USEM course in Spanish to encourage foreign language majors
to take his class.