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Each spring, Carolina celebrates its outstanding faculty members with the University Teaching Awards, recognizing the professors and graduate students who are making an impact in their classrooms. Most of the winners were from the College of Arts & Sciences.

Jason Metcalfe meets with a student during office hours in Phillips Hall. ( photo by Jon Gardiner) He is drawing mathematics equations on a whiteboard while talking to the student.
Jason Metcalfe meets with a student during office hours in Phillips Hall. ( photo by Jon Gardiner)

Jason Metcalfe: Board of Governors Award

Metcalfe, a professor of mathematics, received the 2018 Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching. Each year, the award is presented to a tenured faculty member on each campus of the UNC System for excellent and exceptional undergraduate teaching over a sustained period. The Ottoville, Ohio native told us about his teaching experiences.

No other teacher has cared more about my understanding of the material nor put as much effort towards making a course this challenging into manageable, but still intellectually engaging, work.

-Excerpt from award citation

Who was the best teacher you ever had and why?

Professor Aparna Higgins at the University of Dayton stands out. She held her classes to the highest expectations, yet her students were always supported to the fullest. Her office hours were welcoming, her explanations were patient, and her encouragement was unwavering. Her mastery of challenging students and inspiring them to actively engage with the subject while providing the utmost support is something that I aspire to emulate.

Describe an “Aha!” moment you had when learning how to teach students.

A pair of students came to office hours to work on an assignment, and they were off to a very good start. Their remaining obstruction was well within their abilities. Though I wanted to give them a hint, I just encouraged them to keep trying. I believe that they learned more about the material in that 20 minutes of struggling on their own than they would have with hours of “help” from me. Ever since I remind myself often not to say too much.

Describe a time when you learned something from a student.

My favorite thing to see is when a student correctly implements a strategy that had not occurred to me. Several memory aids for trigonometry were taught to me by students. A guide that I teach for learning integration by parts is something that I found in a student’s scratch work on an exam.

What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you?

I did not take calculus in high school (as it wasn’t offered at the time at my small school) and seeing the rigorous definition of limit on my first day of college almost caused a panic attack.

Story by Korie Dean, University Gazette

Watch a video of all of the winners and read some feature profiles.

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