Congratulations to John Park, recipient of the Wayne C. Booth Graduate Student Prize for Excellence in Teaching! This award recognizes outstanding instruction from graduate students in different fields. College students and faculty members nominate the recipients for the awards. The prize was established in 1991 in honor of Booth, the George M. Pullman Professor of Language & Literature and the College.
The following is an excerpt from the University's announcement:
For John Park, teaching undergraduates is a means with which to better understand his own studies. A PhD student in the Committee on Evolutionary Biology, Park is interested in themes that are true across different environments, such as cycles of life through seasons.
While his research is highly focused, he enjoys communicating it and even challenging it with students.
“The most challenging aspect of teaching undergraduates, particularly as a graduate student, has been the constant effort to surface from the deep end of esoteric details and see how best to draw students into a topic,” he said. “The greatest reward is when that works successfully, and students start asking questions that you are asking yourself.”
Park, who has been teaching since his second year in the program, tries to present students with familiar but confusing puzzles in nature and show them quantitative tools that can be used to think through the puzzles. He particularly enjoys teaching matrix modeling methods used to study endangered natural populations.
He believes teachers should find ways to enjoy the classroom experience.
“I think there are many ways to make the practice of teaching enjoyable, even if for ‘selfish’ reasons like honing your own understanding of a topic,” he said. “But that's ok—a teacher that is having fun teaching is a good teacher, in my opinion.”