‘I think I like teaching more every year’: KSU Spanish Professor Wins Distinguished Teaching Award


“I feel completely thankful to Caroline and the people who think that I deserve this,” Patrick Gallagher said.

After Spanish professor Patrick Gallagher graduated from St. John’s University in Minnesota with an English degree, he was not sure what he wanted to do. One thing he did know was that he did not want to be a teacher. 

Gallagher teaches in the Department of Modern & Classical Language Studies. Even though he received his bachelor’s in English, he decided Spanish was his calling.

Gallagher started in Alicante, Spain, where he learned the language and then spent one year teaching in Torreón, Mexico. Once he finished teaching, he returned to Alicante and also spent time in Valencia, Spain. 

“I didn’t want to do what all my friends were doing, which was getting entry-level jobs,” Gallagher said. 

While in Spain, Gallagher found his love for the Spanish language. 

“I became fanatical about learning Spanish and trying to fool people … on the phone because I don’t look very Spanish,” Gallagher said.  

After six months of learning the language, Gallagher began teaching English in private lessons and academies. 

After a year and a half in Spain, Gallagher went to Mexico and taught in a bilingual high school.

He then returned to Spain and began to apply for graduate school. 

While at the University of Iowa for graduate school, Gallagher studied Spanish and began his teaching career as a teaching assistant. 

“The University of Iowa had a very intensive and ongoing teacher training program for everybody who taught, at least in the Spanish and Portuguese department. It was fabulous,” Gallagher said. 

Once out of graduate school, Gallagher kept teaching as a means to an end, he said. He began his post-graduate career at Widener University in Philadelphia.

“It wasn’t a good place for me at that age,” Gallagher said. “I was just looking for different types of things.”

After teaching in Philadelphia for four years, Gallagher began teaching at Kent State in 2001. 

“My students here are so much more serious … I wish I would’ve been half as serious and prepared and talented as a bunch of my students. It’s really great,” Gallagher said. 

One thing students can expect from Gallagher is to keep track of their grades, as he only uses Blackboard for resources. 

“I don’t put all my grades up because I think people should keep track of their own grades because they’re adults,” Gallagher said. 

In many of his courses, Gallagher makes his assignments worth one point, so it’s easier for students to keep track of their grades.

“His grading is so simplified that it’s not difficult to figure out what your grade is,” said John Baumgardner, a graduate student studying French. 

Baumgardner took one of Gallagher’s classes out of pure interest, he said, but soon chose to start a master’s in Spanish once he finishes his French degree. 

“Dr. Gallagher is the kind of professor that just continually challenges his students in terms of their points of view,” Baumgardner said. “That’s what I liked so much about his class, and that’s why I think he’s such an effective teacher.”

Gallagher is one of three Distinguished Teaching Award (DTA) winners for the 2019 academic year. Other winners included Jacqueline Marino, a journalism professor, and Rachael Blasiman, an associate professor in the department of psychology at the Kent State Salem Campus.

Caroline Lukehart, a senior nursing student, nominated Gallagher for the award after dropping one of his classes.

“I feel like the way that he treated me and the way that he treats all of his students is something that I just think more professors should do,” Lukehart said. “He just genuinely takes the time to care for his students.” 

In the classroom, Gallagher provides students with articles that will challenge the student’s beliefs and create conversations. 

“I try to provoke debate and discussion,” Gallagher said, “and the way I get people to talk when they don’t want to talk is to talk about political things or controversial things.”

“We’re not just having some pre-rehearsed lecture,” Baumgardner said. “It’s really just an open discussion that kind of takes shape along the way.”

For students to stay immersed in the language, Gallagher does not speak English in any of his classes. 

“All of his classes are incredibly conversational, so he likes to not be the one talking,” Lukehart said. 

When Gallagher was presented the DTA during his Civilization of Spain course, he was “tremendously embarrassed.”

“I felt like crawling into a hole,” Gallagher said, “and even though it’s an honor and I am completely flattered by it, I don’t think I like being the center of attention.”

Winning the DTA is something Gallagher never thought about, but his students say it was something he completely deserved. 

“He’s not doing it for vanity or anything like that,” Baumgardner said. “He’s really in this profession because it means so much to him.”

Contact Katie Thompson at [email protected].