Mad props to profs

“Do not take that class.” “Steer clear of that professor.” “That class would not be so difficult if the instructor knew what he was doing.”

Every semester, when it comes time to schedule classes, these types of statements will be heard everywhere on campus. Sure, some classes are naturally more difficult than others. We’re not disputing the fact that Organic Chemistry will take a bit more work and concentration than Children’s Literature. However, when subject matter is not the cause of difficulty in a course, it can become frustrating.

As tuition-paying college students at a state school, we are easily fed up when we perceive an instructor as being incompetent in his or her field. While it is usually not the case, some professors are simply more suited for the research realm of advanced academia instead of the classroom. But there is hope.

Six Kent State faculty members were honored late last week for teaching, what President Lester Lefton has said is Kent State’s most important duty.

Kudos to Dennis Hart, Steven Hook and Stephen Thomas for winning Distinguished Teaching Awards. Furthermore, a pat on the back is also reserved for Katherine Blackbird, Vernon Sykes and Steve Vickery for winning Outstanding Teaching Awards, given to term and non-tenure track faculty.

It is easy to complain about our professors. We reserve that right every semester when we pay tuition. But we must consider the exemplary work of our best instructors and recognize them for it. Kent State does have some amazing people, not just professors, teaching every day.

What is it that makes a particular professor a shoo-in for these types of awards? To put it bluntly, they have the innate ability to make students think. And not just thinking about what to have for lunch. Thinking about the world and how decisions can affect everyone in it. Thinking about how you, as an individual, can make a difference. Thinking about where we’ve come from, where we are now and where we are going. The truly great instructors stimulate thought regardless of what particular class it may be.

Kent State has more of these professors than you may think.

Web sites such as and provide a starting point if you’re looking to unearth these wonderful instructors. But that can only get you so far. The main ingredient for finding a great professor is word of mouth. Not everyone is making comments about professors on rating Web sites, but everyone has an opinion about their classes. Ask your friends who they’ve had for particular classes and what they thought of the professor. Don’t simply ask if it was difficult. Ask if they truly took something from the class, even after the final exam. Professors such as Hart, Hook, Thomas, Blackbird, Sykes and Vickery will always give much more than bland facts for students to regurgitate on an exam.

The best professors will allow you to think for yourself, while providing reasonable parameters for your thinking. Intellectual freedom to express your thoughts intelligently in a classroom setting is one of the best experiences a professor can offer a student. Opening minds for a living can simultaneously be one of the most difficult and rewarding actions for a college professor.

Let’s continue to recognize and reward them for their remarkable work. Take their classes and excel. That would truly be excellence in action.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board, whose members are listed to the left.